Film Review: The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

Well, putting those two colons in that one sentence was pretty awkward….

My family and I went to see The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in the cinema about a week and a half ago. I realise I’m one of the late-comers to watching the film, but hey, we get the movies later in our local cinema. Anyway, in order to get a proper context as to what perspective I am writing this review from, you should know that I hadn’t read The Hobbit when I saw the film. I’m reading it now (130 pages in and loving it), but at that time I only knew as much about the book as I had gleaned from online reviews and what Tilly (who had read most of the book) had told me. It’s true that I did know quite a bit about the film, such as who was playing whom and the overall plot; however, I know not all of you reading this will. So here’s a brief summary:

Image credit: http://bit.ly/112yDTD

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is the first in a soon-to-be three-part series of films from the makers of the Lord of The Rings movies, based on the book by J. R. R. Tolkien. It follows Bilbo Baggins, a homely hobbit dragged out of his comfortable hobbit hole in the Shire by the wizard Gandalf and a crew of 13 dwarves. The latter take Bilbo along on a quest to take back the Lonely Mountain – former home to the dwarves – from its current resident: the fearsome dragon Smaug.

There’s really a lot more to it, what with side-plots involving Radagast the Brown, Azog the Defiler (I know – I would run too), and Fili and Kili’s fledgling Middle Earth boy band. Okay, I’m joking about the last one, but you get the idea. If you want to know more, I suggest you look up about it. Or better yet, read the book and/or see the film. As in now. For the time being, here’s my relatively spoiler-free review.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and the look of The Hobbit is definitely worth a mention at least, so I’ll start with that. The Hobbit comes from the same people who produced Lord of the Rings, plus it was also filmed New Zealand. Put this together, and the new movie is predictably gorgeous. There are fantastic sweeping camera shots of Middle Earth’s breathtaking scenery, as you’d expect, but when you add to that the best modern CGI and top quality video………it really is a sight to behold.

Also on the looks front, I thought the character design was excellent. Gandalf strikes the perfect balance between looking a bit run-down and completely legendary, whilst Bilbo Baggins sticks out as neat and tidy (at first) among the dwarves. Speaking of which, the dwarves’ costumes were great. The filmmakers did a great job of giving each dwarf a distinct look, so even when I was getting confused about their names, it was easy to tell them apart by sight. Although some look more similar than others, several stood out as having particularly unique designs: Bombur is huge with an orange, plaited beard; Balin has bushy eyebrows and great white beard; Bofur has a hat with big, floppy ears. That said, they all had their own distinctive characteristics.

In general, I thought the dwarves were done very well. Whilst in Lord of the Rings most of the dwarves shown appeared basically the same as Gimli – although this is not surprising when they didn’t feature as prominently – the dwarves in The Hobbit are about as different from each other as individual hobbits are from other hobbits. Oin and Gloin are rather Gimli-esque, but this is not the case for all of them. Fili and Kili stand out as one example. The whole topic of their looks was probably going to come up in this post at some point, so it might as well be now. Even though I don’t personally find them especially attractive, I know a lot of people watching The Hobbit have. My point here is that you only have to see one photo of the two of them (particularly Kili) to see that they don’t look like how popular culture would usually describe a dwarve as looking like. In fact, someone who didn’t know about The Hobbit probably wouldn’t know that the boys were meant to be dwarves at all, were it not for their stature and clothing. Granted, they are the most extreme example, but Fili and Kili fairly well demonstrate that the dwarves in this film vary widely in appearance.

Because we'll naturally all remember who Thorin is.Image credit: http://www.nerdlikeyou.com/the-hobbit-almost-there-and-back-again-part-1/the-hobbit-an-unexpected-journey-dwarves/

Because we’ll naturally all remember who Thorin is.
Image credit: https://bit.ly/VjhT8i

I think we’ve all probably had enough of talking about looks for now (except maybe Kili/Fili fangirls – here, I found this link especially for you), so let’s move on to the metaphysical aspects of the movie. Oh yes, we’re going down this road. Starting off with the non-physical characterisation of the characters. I think that the makers of Lord of the Rings are great with this part of film making, because I really can’t fault it. Gandalf is Gandalf, as usual, going around being all Ian-McKellan-y and wise and witty and just generally the kind of guy you wish could be your grandfather. But as for the protagonist, Bilbo is, to all intents and purposes, a brand new character in this film. Not only is he played by Martin Freeman – who was perfect for the role, by the way – but he is also a very different man to the one we see in the early parts of LOTR. As Gandalf so wonderfully put it, when referring to Bilbo’s beginning on the adventure: “If you do [come back], you will not be the same”. In line with this, the Bilbo in The Hobbit is quite a different one to in LOTR. However, Freeman portrays Bilbo well and I really felt you got a sense of the character’s personality and development over the course of the movie. Although he starts off as a persnickety hobbit reluctant to leave the comfort of his cosy hobbit hole, Bilbo’s character soon matures and reveals new sides as he is confronted with obstacles – from emotional challenges like some of the dwarves’ lack of belief in him, to physical ones like riding for days and learning to swordfight, to mental ones like figuring out how to stop some trolls from eating him and his friends. Throughout the film, I found myself caught between the dwarves’ nagging feeling of regret at having brought him along and Gandalf’s unwavering faith in Bilbo. When a film provides you with that level of empathy, it’s hard to see it as a bad thing.

Top row, second from the left; somebody has been taking lessons from the Flynn Rider school of smouldering.
Image credit: http://bit.ly/QKfCB2

Now, I think it’s about time I addressed the subject of The Hobbit’s music. If you’ve listened to any of the music from LOTR, you’re probably going to watch this new movie expecting something pretty amazing. With that in mind, you would likely not be disappointed with The Hobbit’s soundtrack. The score was composed by Howard Shore, who also did the music for the Lord of the Rings series. He did an amazing job on those films, and he did yet another great job on this soundtrack. There’s music to fit every scene, and that’s no exaggeration. Whilst there isn’t a song playing at every point in the movie, there’s still a good amount of emphasis placed on it, especially when it comes to atmosphere. At one end of the spectrum, you have the peaceful Shire music with the woodwinds. Plus, there’s the cheerfully excited song (An Adventure Begins) that plays when Bilbo decides to go on his journey. At the other end of the scale, you have the terrifying theme of Smaug the dragon. I have to admit, I am also a huge fan of the ominous, foreign-language chanting used in the more dramatic pieces. I imagine much of it was intended to be tied to Thorin’s scenes, as it was quite noticeable whenever the focus was on his fighting. But wow, that chanting was a good move. The effect it had reminded me a little of the vocals in Mozart’s Requiem – seriously, both give me chills. On a whole, it’s a fantastic score. In fact, I’m listening to it as I write this.

Perhaps I should have started this review off with this part of the film, but I’ll go for it now:  ladies and gentlemen, the plot and progression of the movie. Even though I wasn’t fully aware of how short The Hobbit novel is when you think about how it’s being stretched out over three, whole, three-hours-each films, you don’t have to be in order to get a sense that something has been…….prolonged in the movie. When I stopped to think about it, I was aware of how long the filmmakers were spending on individual scenes. In a faster paced film, a scene might have lasted five minutes. In The Hobbit, it easily took up half an hour. But that – the ease of it all – is really the main saviour of the film’s pace. Somehow, a scene can last way longer than you would expect it to under any circumstances, and yet it never gets boring. As soon as I walked out of the cinema after seeing The Hobbit, I was ready to walk straight back in and watch it all over again.

Image credit: http://bit.ly/113iaEl

Image credit: http://bit.ly/113iaEl

As for the plot of the film, it’s fairly linear. There are little side-plot type bits, but the main focus is always on the travels of the dwarves, Gandalf, and Bilbo. However, there are parts of the film that switch the spotlight, even if only for a short while. Lucky recipients of this limelight honour include Azog the Defiler and his army of Wargs, although this is heavily tied to the troubled-past, I-will-have-vengeance part of Thorin’s character (minor spoiler: his grandfather was beheaded by Azog, A.K.A. The Pale Orc, in one of the film’s more violent moments). Radagast the Brown, a character I have to say I adored, gets his fair share of storyline. Again, his plot part slots in with the main story, but Radagast – with his sledge-pulling rabbits and forest home – is a rather memorable character. At the risk of digressing quite severely here, I’d just like to mention that I think Radagast and/or Sebastian the hedgehog deserve a much bigger fandom. I’ll be the founding member of the Sebastian fandom, if need be; it just needs to happen. Ahem. Back to side-characters. Galadriel, who returns to this film in all her dreamy, vacant glory, gets almost entire shots dedicated to her pacing in circles* while wearing a floaty white dress. And, of course, we can’t forget the legendary first meeting of Bilbo and Gollum, brought to life in this film with all the eeriness and tension you’d hope for.

Lastly, before I finish this review, I’m going to shine my own reviewing spotlight on a character who had a huge role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and is also the character I am most looking forward to seeing in the sequels. I speak, naturally, of Smaug the Magnificent. As I haven’t finished the book, I can’t rightly estimate how much screentime Smaug is going to get in the follow-up films, but I hope it’s a lot. Firstly, because we hardly got to see any of the dragon in An Unexpected Journey, apart from a bit of tail, claws, wings, eye, and so on. It was hardly enough to appreciate his entire magnificence, if it really is so magnificent to begin with. The second reason I want to see more of Smaug in the future is because, in all honesty, I love seeing dragons in movies. The third reason is that he’s voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch – whose voice, we all know, is the closest any of us will come to hearing actual magic being spoken. I’ll admit that I don’t have a clue if Smaug actually speaks in either book or movie (and I’m not willing to look it up – I’ve had enough of The Hobbit spoiled for me as it is), but even if he’s just growling and fire-breathing, I’m confident it will be worth a watch. Call me strange, but seeing Smaug in future instalments is the thing I’m most excited about when it comes to The Hobbit sequels.

I couldn’t find a decent picture of Smaug the dragon to include here, so you’ll have to settle for this one of Benedict Cumberbatch. It’s basically the same thing, anyway.
Image credit: http://bit.ly/KaKFRT

You’ve probably gotten a fairly good idea of what I think of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey by now, if you managed to survive your own perilous journey down to this review’s last paragraph, but I’ll say it again – I loved this movie. I would gladly see it again tomorrow if I could. Or today. It was absolutely brilliant and I loved every second of it (including the scene with Gollum, even if that simultaneously squeezed every ounce of both repulsion and pity from my body). Perhaps I would have enjoyed it less if I’d read the book beforehand, and maybe I’ll enjoy the sequels less once I’ve finished it. Regardless, right now I love the film. On the whole: thoroughly, enthusiastically recommended.

Overall rating: 10/10

Mary’s parental guidance rating: 15 (ah, this is a tricky one. But I’ll go with 15, because it really is quite violent at times. Also, intense. You really wouldn’t believe it had been based on a children’s book – heck, I’d say it’s even darker than LOTR. Not that I’m complaining or anything.)

 

*And why is she allowed to do that without anyone saying, “For goodness’ sake, Galadriel, will you stop gliding around and sit down?”. Whenever I pace, people get seriously annoyed with me. I think it’s because I have magic powers that are only fully enabled when I pace, and nobody wants me to reach my full magical potential. Maybe that’s why Galadriel is so powerful – the secret is in the pacing.

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Bit of Book Blogging: The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice

Quick note: I wrote this post several weeks ago, when I’d just finished reading The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets. Just to anyone who was wondering about the date details or anything like that. Also, my perspective on The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets has probably changed somewhat since this writing, but below are my impressions from having just finished the book for the first time.

I saw The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets in my local library a week or so ago, and on a normal day I would probably never have taken it home. For one thing, it has been blatantly squashed into the chick-lit genre. It has a pastel-heavy cover adorned with a wurly-curly cursive title, along with a little drawing of a pink dress-clad woman in the corner. At first sight, it’s made pretty clear who this book is aimed at. However, I did pick it up, thanks to its mention on this wonderful blog. I figured it wouldn’t be much of a hard-going read – besides, the blurb reminded me of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, one of my all-time favourite books. So I did bring it home, and in the end I’m glad I did.

The Lost of Keeping Secrets is, first and foremost, set in the 1950s England, post-WWII. The female lead is Penelope, a girl-woman in her late teens who spends her time before the start of the book mostly working, studying, and hanging out around her historical-but-falling-apart home with her brother and mother. This all changes in the first chapter, when Penelope is somewhat forcefully taken back to the house of the vivacious Charlotte to have tea with the latter’s aunt and cousin. Things snowball from there, with Penelope getting invited to parties, meeting up with Charlotte, becoming increasingly involved with her friend’s mocking cousin Harry, and all the while trying to keep up with her mother’s delicate mental state and brother’s growing obsession with the new rock ‘n’ roll music of the times.

One thing I really liked about The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets was the side characters. Charlotte is one of those people that you want to be in a scene just because they make it so much fun. I loved how she eats lots, has poor table manners, and is pretty pushy at times, yet you still find her incredibly entertaining. I felt like I really got the sense of how she comes across to characters in the book, as having some sort of unidentifiable but undeniable charm. Harry, too, made for a great male lead. He wasn’t the typical tall, dark, and handsome type – in fact, he’s short and is actually described as “not the most handsome boy”. He’s flawed, like all round characters should be, but his self-confidence and magnetism came straight up through the pages. It’s not really relevant, but I’d like to mention how much I adored the fact that he had eyes of two different colours. It was a bit disappointing to find out this was due to being stabbed in the eye with a pencil, not heterochromia – it was a cool trait, anyway.

I wasn’t so keen on Penelope as character, which is a shame because she is the protagonist. It wasn’t so much that she wasn’t likeable, but more a case of feeling like not much of her personality came across. Having finished the book, I still don’t feel like I knew much about her. Rocky, too, was meant to be a charismatic older American man, but didn’t come across as adding much to the book other than as a resolution for certain plot details. Funnily enough, the other American in the book, the possibly antagonistic Marina, came across as having a very distinct character and I liked seeing what she was going to do next, what with her unpredictable mind and all.

Eva Rice’s writing style is easy to read and created an atmosphere well. A few too many descriptions of delicious tea-time snacks led me to get up from my bed in the middle of the night and raid the kitchen for food, so I’ll take that as a sign of good writing on Rice’s part. There were some issues with it, especially in that Penelope’s personality didn’t come across much and the sentences felt contrived at times. Rice partly makes up for this in her lovely scene descriptions, though.

In summary, reading The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets was a bit like eating one of the tea-time treats Rice describes in the book – it’s not going to keep you thinking for weeks afterward, but it’s sweet and enjoyable whilst you’re consuming it. It wasn’t a book that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Still, I liked reading it and would recommend it if you’re looking for something light and fun and not too serious. It’s set in the 1950s as well, which doesn’t hurt.

Overall rating: 7/10

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Weirdest Things (Blog Meme)

This blog’s first ever blog meme has arrived! It’s called the Weirdest Things blog meme and I was tagged in it by Nevillegirl over at Musings From Neville’s Navel. Thank you, Nevillegirl!

Rules

1. If you are tagged, answer the questions in the meme in a blog post on your blog.
2. Make sure at the beginning of your post you put a link to the blog of the person who tagged you.
3. Tag at least three people to do the same thing (you can tag more than three people if you would like).
4. Have fun!

Questions

What do you think the weirdest color is? Probably black, because no-one can ever agree if it’s a colour or not. It’s kind of like white in that respect, but I think black has its colour status challenged more often because it’s the colour of dark, not light – unlike white – and we need light to see. It’s a pretty damn awkward colour to have as a favourite, though, I tell you. Conversations with a person whose favourite colour is black tend to go like this:

(We’ll say Whitman likes white and Blake likes black)

Whitman: Yo, Blake, my main man. What’s your favourite colour, dude?

Blake: Black.

Whitman: Bro! Black ain’t no colour.

Blake: It is.

Whitman: No, dude, black is the colour of nothingness.

Blake: You just called it a colour.

Whitman: Nothingness can’t have a colour, bro.

Blake: You just said it did.

Whitman: Shut up, man.

Or something like that. It could go on for longer and Blake could say something like “How about I make your face black?” and it would all descend into fighting. Not black like the dark skin colour, by the way. This isn’t a racial slur or anything. I mean like when you get bruises on your face, and they go black? Still, I find it weird when people say their favourite colour is black because “it goes with everything”. Dude, that’s not how you’re supposed to pick a favourite colour. There are rules for these things, you know.

What is the weirdest TV show/movie you have ever seen? I once saw a bit of a TV programme called Wilfred, which is basically about this guy who gets followed around by this dog, except that the guy sees the dog as a man in a dog suit whilst everyone else sees him as a dog. It’s really strange. Plus Frodo – I mean Elijah Wood – plays the aforementioned guy, so that makes it even weirder to watch. It was actually funny at a few points, if rather crass.

What is the weirdest food you have ever tried? When I was younger (not that much younger, mind you) I made a habit of dipping French cheese flavour crisps in the strawberry jam that fell out of my sandwich. Try it; it’s delicious.

What is the weirdest drink you have ever tried? Once I asked for carrot juice at a restaurant, thinking it would be the usual, fresh from the carton stuff. Turns out, the staff actually blended raw carrots and poured them into a glass for me to drink. I had to gulp down an entire glass full of mushed-up carrots – not fun, although you get a really “Oh yeah, I’m so healthy” feeling after you’ve had it.

Who is your weirdest friend? I’m not going to name names, but I do have a particular friend that carries a clove of garlic around in her handbag all the time. You know who you are.

What is the weirdest thing you have ever seen on the internet? I’m going to take a leaf out of Nevillegirl’s book of linking to inappropriate things on the internet and say probably this video by danisnotonfire. To tell the truth, a lot of Dan’s videos are weird, but this one really takes the cake. In summary, Dan and his friend Phil use an internet dating app to talk and send pictures to random, date-wanting (to put it mildly) people in their area – except they pretend to be a wooden guinea pig. I know, I know. It’s hilarious, but I have to warn you: the video contains strong language and pretty inappropriate humour, so watch at your own risk.

What is the weirdest thing your pet has ever done? I’ve never really had a pet, except for my old pet caterpillar, Wiggles. I don’t really know what else to say………….um, he used to be really picky about his food and would only eat leaves from particular plants in the garden? Well done, Mary, you’re being really weird now.

What is the weirdest book you have ever read? On the more negative side of weirdness, I’ll say The Men Who Stare at Goats by Jon Ronson. It’s predominantly about the application of New Age concepts in the U.S. Army, but gets really weird, really fast. I got about halfway through and had to stop, because I found some of the stories in there too disturbing to read. That’s one of the few books I can remember deliberately stopping partway through.

What is the weirdest blog you follow? I have to say Musings From Neville’s Navel, not because its author tagged me in this meme, but because that is seriously one of the weirdest blogs I have the pleasure of following. This is the girl who talks about stuff like how strawberries are named George and who named her blog after a small purple creature of indeterminate species. It’s awesome. Go check it out.

Three Weird Bloggers Whom I’ll Tag

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The Likeability of Companies: The Big Four

I’ve been thinking about this idea for a blog post for a while now, but it was brought to the front of my mind today when I saw the updated WordPress homepage. It’s new, blue, and all up in your face. Personally, I don’t like it. Even if I get used to it eventually, right now I’m not too keen on the massive pictures in the reader, long-winded route taken to find my dashboard, and inescapable bright blue colouring that follows you around the site. I loved WordPress before, but it’s moments like this that make you go, “What the heck, WordPress?”.

In this case, my overall opinion of WordPress isn’t really diminished. They’re still reliable and make good choices most of the time. But not all companies are created equal. Some start out great, only to betray your trust years later by steering the corporation’s goals away from customer happiness and towards making money. Others were never especially likeable, but you stick with them anyway because you feel like you’ve no other option. Some are just friendly, nice, reasonable companies that never change. Likeability is a huge factor on which companies we are loyal to and which ones we avoid at all costs – we’re only human, after all, and logic can’t rule our judgement all the time (unless you’re half Vulcan).

In this post, I’m going to take a look at several different companies (specifically the big companies that I have the strongest opinions on) and evaluate how likeable each of them are. Warning: here be links. Also, bear in mind that while I might use some real-life incidents as examples, this evaluation is – by nature – incredibly subjective. You can comment or write your own post about the likeability of companies after reading this, but for now, here are my views:

  • Apple. Oh, Apple, where did it all go wrong? You used to be the underdog, the everyman to Microsoft’s business guy. That’s the angle you used in your adverts, anyway. You made good products and we all sort of believed you – then it all went downhill. Like a revolution leader becoming a country’s new dictator, Apple attempted forming a forced monopoly by making iTunes only accept certain types of files and causing some iPhones and iPods to reject the use of certain non-Apple software, such as Adobe’s. On top of that, Apple began suing anyone and everyone for creating products even remotely similar to their own. Then there’s the issue with people working in Apple factories. From being the creative brainchild of the great Steve Jobs, Apple has quickly turned into a stroppy, controlling bully of a company, albeit the developer of smart products.
  • Facebook. Is it just me, or was Facebook never actually a likeable company? If The Social Network movie is to be even halfway believed, the online giant was practically founded in bitchiness. Now, if there’s one company that knows how to abuse its army of followers, it’s Facebook. From questionable privacy policies to bizarre rules as to what should be taken down from the site (e.g. breastfeeding photos, taken down; pro-violence/rape groups, kept up), the company doesn’t seem too bothered about keeping its customers happy. They seem to be paying the price, though, seeing as they’ve recently been rated lowest out of social media sites in terms of customer satisfaction.

 

  • Google. If Apple’s the whiny former small-fry that won’t share their toys and Facebook’s the sneaky child that blackmails everyone into being their friend, Google is the kind-but-cool older kid at school. They’re the one who doesn’t seem to do anything that’s not for your benefit: from regularly updating their homepage with fantastic graphics to having an unofficial slogan of “Don’t be evil”, Google have made a name for themselves as the nice guy of the internet. While branching out into multiple fields of technology and obtaining name-as-a-verb status (Google it), Google have maintained the trust of thousands of users. High five, guys.

 

  • Microsoft. Like the great-grandfather of the computer world, Microsoft seems to have been around for ages. They haven’t really, but the fact that the company’s existence isn’t currently marred with privacy controversy or dramatic lawsuits makes it come across as having much more staying power than the likes of some other companies. Some people dislike Microsoft for its so-called monopoly on the computer market, and while they do seem to hold a lot of influence over that field, how often do they actually abuse their power? Unlike Apple, Microsoft’s products tend to accommodate software from other companies, and they’re regarded as a well-known, trustworthy company. The philanthropic activities of Microsoft’s founder, Bill Gates, haven’t done the company’s image any harm either. Microsoft’s likeability doesn’t stem so much from its fun, friendly and informal attitude, like Google – instead, it comes from reliability.

 

I hope you guys enjoyed that list. Remember, like I said earlier, these are just my opinions, backed up with some stuff I’ve heard on the internet. If you love Apple and Facebook but hate Google and Microsoft, that’s fine. Disagreement is healthy – it’s why democracy works. Anyway, I’m not really up to completely demonising Apple; I own and adore an iPod, so it would be kind of hypocritical. Feel free to voice your opinions in the comments (I’d love to hear them) or even take this idea and blog about it yourself. Until then, my fellows.

Posted in Tech | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 2012 Blog of the Year Award (PS: Happy New Year!)

I got another blog award! Hurray! This one is from Nevillegirl at Musing’s From Neville’s Navel (as was the previous and only other award I got, but we won’t dwell on that). I did say thank you to her in a comment already, but I’ll say it again: thanks, Nevillegirl!

Anyway, this blog award has a very specific set of instructions, instructions it has acquired over a very long – just kidding. 50 points if you get the reference. It does actually have instructions you have to follow in order to get the award, though. Here they are:

Rules

1. Display the award logo on your blog.
2. Link back to the person who nominated you.
3. Link back to the Blog of the Year 2012 Rules page so people can read the real, complete, and fully accurate rules of this slightly-different blogger award.
4. State 5 things about yourself.
5. Pass the award on to 6 other bloggers and link to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by pingback.

Okay, 2 is done already (see above). Now for 1:

Blog of the Year Award 1 star thumbnail

On to instruction number 3. I don’t really get why I have to link people back to the “real” rules when I’ve just put them here; it’s not like I’m going to abridge them or anything – ah, I just realised! They must not expect people to put them up themselves! Oh yes, 10 points for epiphany. (That’s probably not the real reason, but I like to think the people who made this award don’t think I’m some sort of rule-editing, inaccuracy-making freak). Here’s the link. Moving on.

Five Things About Me

  1. Yesterday, I suffered a string of clumsiness-related incidents, including: leaning my elbows on a table and causing the whole thing to flip up; bumping my head on the same lamp twice; walking backwards into a settee I thought was further away; swinging my hand into a door frame; hitting my head on the ground when I tried to lie down; knocking a stack of sheet music over onto my head; and shining a booklight into my eyes.
  2. I was given a label maker for Christmas and have since labelled most of the light switches in the house with things like “Let there be light!”, “You light up my life”, and “My eyes!!!”.
  3. I was also given two cuddly toy owls for Christmas, which I have named Hibou (French word for owl; I name my cuddly toys like a French 3-year-old) and Bowie (because he has a serious David Bowie vibe going on).
  4. Whenever I see a significant number on a digital clock, I feel the need to shout it out. E.g. 11:11 (Eleven eleven!), 12:34 (One two three four!), and even 12:21 (Palindrome!).
  5. While doing my work today, I listened pretty much exclusively to Colours of the Wind from Pocahontas, I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan, and Something That I Want from Tangled.

Lastly, it’s time for the nominations. Drumroll, please!

The Nominees and Their Blogs (in alphabetical order)

There we are! I don’t know if all of these bloggers will accept the award (I know some people don’t seem to like to accept these awards, and that’s cool) but I think all the nominees are completely awesome either way. It’s the thought that counts, anyway. Sending you all awesome thoughts and wishing you a (belated) Happy New Year!

Posted in Bloggy Stuff | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Day 12: Love Actually (Twelve Days of Christmas Movies)

This is the twelfth in a series of posts, The Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. Each one reviewed/talked about a different Christmassy film and the whole thing spanned 12 days – one film per day. You can read the original post about it (which also lists all 12 days of movies) here.

As most of you who have either been following my blog or have read the above italicised paragraph will know, I have been spending the last 11 days (plus today) writing pseudo-reviews for a series of Christmas movies. Today, we reach our finale with the British romantic comedy classic: Love Actually. Love Actually DVD

This is probably the most famous romantic comedy in Britain, the one that has spawned dozens of imitation films like New Year’s Eve and Valentine’s Day, all following equally interconnected couples in the build-up to a specific holiday. If you ask me, neither of those latter films will ever come close to being as good as Love Actually. Okay, so I haven’t seen New Year’s Eve, but you’d be pretty hard put to beat the original interlinked, ensemble cast, festive rom-com. That said, if you think Valentine’s Day is better than Love Actually, that’s your choice – you just can’t be my friend.

Despite all its critical and commercial acclaim, I think that Love Actually is quite an underrated film. Give me a second to explain. It’s always coming up in conversation or writing about romantic comedies, and yes, it is often considered one of the best of its genre. But that’s about it. The fact that it is just a really, really good film is often overshadowed by  its status as a rom-com. It’s a bit like how Nicholas Sparks refuses to call his novels romances, because he comes across as basically thinking his writing is above that (it’s not). Love Actually is branded as a romantic comedy, and I think that has put some people off seeing it. However, it is a truly good film with a great heart and some wonderful (at times distinctly British) humour. Unless you’re a Dementor, I am fairly certain that Love Actually will manage to get at least one laugh or “aww” out of you. So yes, it is a rom-com, but it’s an excellent film at the same time.

But I could spend hours and hours going on about how fantastic Love Actually is. For me, it’s one of those films that I forget how much I love until I see it again. Then I spend the whole time going on about how I forgot how much I loved it. Everything about it is amazing: it includes loads of my favourite (and very talented) actors, who play their parts perfectly; the music is either beautifully composed or expertly chosen; the plot is woven brilliantly and you notice new parts of it every time you watch it; there are cute bits, funny bits, dramatic bits, sad bits, exciting bits, heart-warming bits…………the list goes on. So rather than spend this entire 1000-or-so words of a blog post rambling on about how amazing it is, I’ll leave you to watch and judge it for yourself.

In the meantime, I hereby present you with my list of my top twelve (because it’s the Twelve Days of Christmas) favourite moments in Love Actually. Just for fun.

WARNING: Here be spoilers. If you’ve never seen the film or are the sort of person that goes “But I didn’t know that Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father, you’ll probably want to look away now. The minor spoilers below don’t completely spoil the very end, though, so you won’t lose your entire enjoyment of the film by reading them. Besides, I’ve watched the film hundreds of times whilst knowing the ending and I just love it more every time, so I don’t think it would ruin Love Actually for you.

Top Twelve Moments in Love Actually (in no particular order)*

  1. David’s dance to Jump (for my Love) by The Pointer Sisters. This scene is just incredibly funny. Hugh Grant, who plays Prime Minister David, really goes all out in this part and dances ridiculously around 10 Downing Street. One of the funniest bits of this scene is the look on his assistant’s face when she sees him dancing – she is trying so hard not to laugh.
  2. Daniel and Sam watching Titanic and talking. This is one of the cuter scenes in the film – although any scene that Sam is in is liable to be unbearably adorable. It’s really nice seeing the pair’s relationship as father and son develop over the course of the film, and this part in particular is very sweet. The conversation they have about “the one” after watching part of the film shows how genuine Sam’s love for Joanna is, and is subtly referenced in later parts of the film.
  3. Billy Mack’s interview with Ant & Dec. I can imagine this one might go a bit over the head of non-British audiences if they don’t know who Ant & Dec are, but it’s another very funny scene nonetheless. The looks of Ant or Dec’s faces when Billy makes inappropriate comments is especially hilarious.
  4. David’s Great Britain speech. This is the second scene I’ve picked starring David’s character, but rather than being predominantly funny, this is more of a “Yeah, you go man!” moment. It’s basically a short speech about how awesome Britain is, which comes after David is bullied by the American President. It’s so legendary, even our real-life (former) Prime Minister mentioned it in a speech. If you’re ever feeling kind of let-down about being British, watch a clip of this scene.
  5. Harry trying to buy a necklace. When Harry (Alan Rickman) tries to buy a necklace for a woman he doesn’t want his wife to know about, the jewellery salesman (Rowan Atkinson) spends ages obsessively and theatrically gift-wrapping it. It’s a joy to watch Harry get increasingly frustrated with Rowan Atkinson’s character, whilst the latter just carries on with what he’s doing. One especially threatening glare from Alan Rickman makes you feel like saying to the jewellery salesman “If you had seen him in Die Hard, you’d be careful about annoying him this much”.
  6. The All You Need is Love band at the wedding. There’s not much to this scene, apart from a bunch of random musicians and a singer popping up out of crowds of wedding guests and playing the aforementioned famous Beatles song. It’s brilliant. If I ever have a wedding, I want this to happen at it.
  7. Jamie’s papers flying into the lake. Jamie (Colin Firth) is writing his novel on a typewriter by a small lake when his maid, Aurelia, comes out and lifts a mug off a stack of papers, causing them to blow away into the water. She runs off and jumps in the water to get them, which makes Jamie feel that he has to follow her in. This scene is both romantic and funny. Probably mostly the latter, as Jamie has a go at himself about getting in the water and ends up falling in sideways. Then there’s also the ever-present conversation between him and Aurelia, with the former speaking English whilst the latter talks in Portuguese. The subtitles make their communication issues very apparent and equally funny.
  8. Mark’s word card message to Juliet. Mark (Andrew Lincoln) is in love with Juliet (Keira Knightley), despite her being married to Mark’s best friend. He expresses his love for her one night by standing on her doorstep and showing her a series of cards with messages on them. This scene is romantic, but it’s also nice in the way that Mark is gaining closure on his relationship with Juliet without jeopardising her existing marriage.
  9. The Christmas concert. This is one of the most famous scenes in Love Actually, and for good reason. It stars Joanna singing All I Want for Christmas is You fantastically well – as in, everyone-stops-and-just-stares kind of well. The way everyone is in total shock at a young girl being able to sing so well, Sam’s overjoyed look when Joanna points at him, and the overall wonderful music – it’s just a great scene.
  10. David’s introduction to 10 Downing Street. Two main points that make this scene: David’s wave before entering the building (which he comments on inside) and his conversation with Natalie, a member of the staff. The first is a little silly and funny, but the second involves Natalie accidentally swearing repeatedly and basically just messing up her meeting with David. It’s all okay, though.
  11. Billy Mack and Joe’s reunion on Christmas. The relationship between these two men stands out as the only prominent platonic one in the film. But with a has-been, aging pop star and his “fat” manager, this is one of the less glamorous examples of bromance. I think its lack of romanticism is part of what makes this scene so sweet, because it seems quite genuine.
  12. Sam’s run through the airport. After the concert, Sam runs through an airport to find Joanna before she boards a plane. I love how his step-father fully encourages him to just run past security, plus the way the airport security chase after him but end up crashing into everyone. It’s the typical chasing-love-interest-down-at-airport/plane scene, but it’s sort of making fun of it and 100% brilliant, so we’ll forgive it.

Overall rating: 10/10

Christmassy-ness rating: 7/10

Mary’s parental guidance rating: 15 (it’s only language that you really need to be concerned about, and that doesn’t concern me much)

And that’s all for now! Well, I’ve had a great time watching these twelve films and reviewing them for this series, and I hope you have enjoyed reading these posts. That said, I will be happy to take a break from writing for a bit – a post a day for 12 days without breaks is tough! But I loved doing this challenge anyway; maybe I’ll even do it again next year.

I hope everyone has a great Christmas and New Year!

*According to Mary

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Day 11: The Snowman (Twelve Days of Christmas Movies)

This is the eleventh in a series of posts, The Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. Each one will review/talk about a different Christmassy film and the whole thing spans 12 days – one film per day. You can read the original post about it (which also lists all 12 days of movies) here.

It’s Day 11 already and we’re very rapidly approaching both Christmas day and the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas Movies. Seriously, as one of my sisters would say, it’s Christmas Eve Eve (not a typo – there are meant to be two eves). Technically, given that this post is supposed to go up on December 22nd, this post is late. However, I like to think that because I have not actually been to bed and woken up yet, it is effectively still the same day. Yeah, that’s right. The world revolves around me. Point being, it’s only late if I say it is. And I say it’s only a little bit late.The Snowman DVD

As usual, we’re going to get back to the real point in the second paragraph of the post. Today (yesterday?), that means talking about The Snowman, the Day 11 film. This is an old-ish animated film from the  80’s, based on the beloved children’s picture book by Raymond Briggs. It’s unique in multiple ways, one of these being the fact that it’s a short film, at just under half an hour. It’s also drawn in a very beautiful crayon style and plays in a sort of picture-book-flipping way – basically, there’s a little jump between each shot, but it creates a nice effect. The third thing that makes it unique is that it’s wordless, apart from the famous song Walking in the Air, sung by Aled Jones.

At this point you might be wondering: “But what about David Bowie/Raymond Briggs?”. If you are like me, you’ll be contemplating why I have not mentioned David Bowie’s presence in the film (if he was there) because clearly that would add a great deal of awesomeness to it. So here’s why I haven’t mentioned it yet: because he wasn’t in it. That’s right; as with several other films on my original list, I have been misled. I heard that there was a narrator in the film, which would be either Raymond Briggs in the first version or David Bowie in the re-release. Well, I watched it. Guess what? No narrator. Still, this might be to do with the version I had or didn’t have. If you have seen this film with a narrator – apparently it’s the voice of Older James – please let me know in the comments, as I’m quite confused.

The Snowman 2

Moving on to the plot. Without any dialogue, the film’s plot is not elaborated on much. It primarily features a young boy named James (we learn this from the name tag on a present given to him), who builds a snowman outside his house during Christmas time. Naturally, this snowman comes to life. Together, James and the Snowman play games and go on little adventures, including one that involves flying through the sky. The last activity is the one during which Walking in the Air plays.

The Snowman KitchenI don’t want to give away the ending or spoil too much of the plot, so I’ll stop there. I will, however, say that I really liked The Snowman. It’s just a nice thing to watch, as in one of those films that you genuinely just enjoy watching for the sake of watching. There’s a certain spectacle to it – not like the kind in The Avengers, but the kind that you simply find entertaining and enjoyable to watch. Part of this probably comes from the gorgeous way everything is drawn, another part from the wonderfully symbolic music played throughout (mostly instrumental), and yet another part from the childlike magic of the whole thing.

I vaguely remember, as I do with so many of these films, watching The Snowman as a child. I’m not entirely sure, but I don’t think my siblings or myself were overly keen on it. I can see why. It’s not exactly a fast-paced film, kids could get confused by the lack of dialogue, and a certain part is not very happy. Maybe some kids were more mature than me and liked it, but I don’t think this was ever a family classic in my parents’ house. Nonetheless, I loved The Snowman this time around. It’s like a piece of art, in a way. Pretty and nice to look at but meaningful at the same time. This is another film I would recommend watching at Christmas time, especially if you’re looking for a sense of pure, childlike adventure. It also includes a Scottish country dancing scene, which earns any film extra bonus points.

The Snowman Flying

Overall rating: 9/10

Christmassy-ness rating: 6/10 (mostly wintery, but there is a particular rather Christmassy scene)

Mary’s parental guidance rating: U (or G in the land of sidewalks and crispy chips)

Tomorrow’s film (and the final film in the series – DUN DUN DUN): Love Actually

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