The Journey of a Generation

Ten years ago, I met a boy with a lightning scar on his forehead wearing baggy and ruffled clothes. He happened to live in the cupboard under the stairs.

As time passed, I watched that boy grow up, learning he wasn’t at all the ordinary, parent-less boy that he was supposed to be. I saw him fight off a giant snake, thwart a Dark Wizard from returning to power, save his godfather from soul-sucking prison guards, win a deadly tournament, steal an important prophesy, and watch his Headmaster die.

He was not an ordinary boy. He grew up to be a marked man. And he defined the childhood of an entire generation.

Now, his story is about to come to an end.

I hate to think that what marked my every year since I was 11 is now on its final performance. For years, I delved into the wizarding world seeing the boy with a lightning scar fight his way into a life that is not threatened by death and destruction. Reel after reel, book after book, the story of this boy showed that the world is not always as it seems to be.

Because now, the finale of a worldwide phenomenon is on its way.

While I still haven’t sorted my feelings about this epic happening, I know only of one thing: I am proud to be part of his generation, to be one of the many who saw him grow and win, to be one who have learned a lot from him.

I’ll be waiting for that final destination. I will complete this journey.

And I’ll never forget that sometime in my young life, I met a boy with a lightning scar who had something worth living a second life for.

Challenged: To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a Mockingbird

I’ve never read a classic before. Though I’m familiar with most of their stories, I got by mostly through cartoons (The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Little Women) or movies (Alice in Wonderland). And I’ve always wondered how it would feel to finally be able to read something that’s been in book shops for about 50 years now. I expected it to be confusing, practically because then’s ideologies are somewhat different from now’s, and laden with metaphorical references to the author’s immediate society.

And To Kill a Mockingbird does just that.

I wish I can be as elaborate when I write this post about To Kill a Mockingbird. Frankly, I have put aside writing about the novel again and again, for fear that I wouldn’t do justice as I only have my own understanding to use as support. And since I cannot even begin to collect my thoughts on the many subjects of the novel, I guess I would be deviating from the earlier format I set for posts related to the books I’ve listed for the 50 Book Challenge.

Instead of the usual “I like. . .” “I don’t. . .” stuffs, I would attempt to dig deeper on how I understood the story and the many meaningful, life-changing events in the life of Scout Finch.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel by Pulitzer awardee Harper Lee about 6-year-old Scout, sister to the intelligent, responsible boy Jem, daughter to lawyer, moral-filled Atticus, friend to adventurous boy Dill, and a sight to most of the residents of the hot, Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama. Scout’s story starts with the simplicity of her childhood in the absence of her mother and amidst the boyish household she grew up in, balanced by the only other female at home–their colored helper Calpurnia. Even in her young age, she begins to question intelligently the way their town has been operating. As she grows up and starts attending school, more and more of these questions pop up referring to a myriad of topics: colored folks, men and women, literacy, and poverty. These questions, however simple, are markings of a child growing up amidst the many flaws of social issues.

To Kill a Mockingbird therefore is not just any other novel. It is a work of art that mirrors the very society that is too laden with societal misconceptions that we might just as well be glad to be rid of at present.

Themes

Based on how I understood the novel, there are themes scattered about in Scout’s story. They are complex, especially since they’re delivered from the eyes of a 6-year-old. But if we look at them all, they are simple representations of what went on in the Americas before. And probably, how unacceptable they seem to be.

Scout’s many innocent questions symbolize these themes:

1. Societal laws, which may either be implied or blatantly imposed. Why is their neighbor Boo Radley locked up in his home? Why is she being forbidden to demonstrate her reading skills in class, where she’s supposed to be progressively learning if not at all starting? Why should girls wear corsets and dresses when overalls were more comfortable? What is rape, and why is Mayella Ewell suing Tom Robinson for that?

Societies are often marked and bound by such rules that impose on their people what to do and what to think of. It’s a little disgusting, if you ask me, to have more rules on behavior than on criminality. Much more, to have these behavioral rules override the fact that people aren’t supposed to be acting uniformly. They are entitled to their own personalities and should therefore be respected.

2. Discrimination and segregation–by gender, class, and race. Why are the people around her classified by nuances and impressions by the townsfolk? What is wrong with her father, a white man, legally defending a Negro? Why are women expected to be the only ones responsible in raising the kids and doing chores? How come most of the families who live by the dumpsite don’t come to school often?

Scout has seen most of these imbalances, from being raised by both a White, affluent man and a colored, working woman. I think it’s a good representation of views. The balance is seemingly normal at her home, but when she goes out to the town, she realizes that such is not the case. I appreciate that these points are well-taken and impressed upon by the author.

3. Human thinking. This is very much represented by the characters of Bob Ewell, the father of the supposed rape victim who out of shame during the court proceeding–where he was apparently wronged by Atticus–tried to kill the lawyer’s children. Bob Ewell is a good characterization of how humans generally act to protect what is little left in their persons, whether it’s pride or wealth. The same goes for the characters of Miss Maudie, who represents open-mindedness and a strength of will to believe in her own set of morals, and Mayella Ewell, a lady totally like her father.

Innocence and the Mockingbird

I must admit that, at the beginning, I was at a loss regarding the relation between the supposed general enveloping theme of the novel–innocence–and the metaphor of the mockingbird. But upon reading the novel’s interpretation that mockingbirds are evidently harmless creatures that only entertains its surroundings, I’ve begun to understand what the connection is.

Aside from the fact that innocence is as harmless as a mockingbird, I guess one symbolizes the other in such a way that when we speak of either one, we mean something that is always present and should be left at that: growing and prospering at its own pace and liking.

Generally, the novel is a straightforward way of stating what goes around the town of Maycomb. It openly directs readers to how a life bordered by societal misgivings must be changed, even just to ensure harmony amongst its members. I may not at all understand everything in between the lines of this book, but definitely, I accept what it’s trying to say. And I do hope that To Kill a Mockingbird be continuously read and recommended, especially to the younger generation.

If only to remind them that a mockingbird flies around, harmless and utterly true.

Challenged: The Best Laid Plans

The Best Laid Plans

Change of plans. I don’t know yet which of my previously-listed 50 titles The Best Laid Plans is replacing, or if it would at all. But yeah, the book’s my 4th entry to the 50 Book Challenge I joined at the start of the year.

The Best Laid Plans is a 1997 novel by Sidney Sheldon about love, hatred, revenge, jealousy, drugs, and politics. It is a many-charactered story that follows the political rise of attorney-turned-US President Oliver Russell and the various people that surrounds his personal life. These includes PR man Peter Tager, Senator Todd Davis who also happens to be Russell’s father-in-law, and a myriad of women. The plot continuously rises and falls as Oliver’s ex-fiance Leslie Stewart who then married a powerful businessman dedicated her life into ruining the President’s reputation and chances for a second term at the White House.

Almost conveniently coincindental, a number of murders started occuring, with the women very much associated to Russell dying one by one due to an overdose of a lethal drug called “Liquid Ecstacy” (forgive me, the scientific name’s kinda difficult to spell). Aside from that, foreign correspondent Dana Evans gets jailed of espionage in a war zone. On top of everything else is Stewart’s undying vow of destroying Russell.

Sheldon spices up and connects each incident to one another, creating a web of deceptions and mysteries he’s much known for. In the end, the answer is a bomb that explodes in the middle of the chaos–tearing into pieces the whole glassy world of the rich and famous to make way for justice and a happy ever after.

Trivia: Sidney Sheldon included a sentence written in Filipino in one of the chapters. This is also one thing I’ve noticed in his novels, there’s always a reference to something Filipino. And I truly wonder why.

What I Liked Most

Hmmm. This is the fourth Sheldon novel I’ve read and well, I still get surprised. Maybe that’s what I liked best in this book–the element of surprise that never ceases even if you expect it the entire time. Actually, I got a little disapproving when there seemed to be an ineffective phasing of mysteries to their revelations. But apparently I was proved wrong because though I thought that there would be no explosion of sort–which I came to know Sheldon’s novels for–I still got myself shocked by the turn of events.

And I loved the man for it. For bringing down the whole story to a knockdown, artfully weaving a complexly-stitched mass of circumstances.

What I Liked Least

This would be the underdevelopment of the main female character, Leslie Stewart. I know for a fact that most of Sheldon’s main characters are strong-willed, talented, exceptional women (Tracy Whitney of If Tomorrow Comes, as an excellent example). Hence, I kind of think that the development of Leslie Stewart’s character seem to be way beyond majestic. She appeared to be a shallow, revenge-driven, cloudy woman whose innate talent went under her wealthy disposition.

To make matters worse, another exceptional female was introduced mid-novel in the face of war-torn reporter Dana Evans. And her character was by far better and easier to be appreciated. Although I still think that Evans’ views were too idealistic for a modern woman, but then, that’s not the point.

I guess I would have done better if more of Leslie’s destroy-Oliver plans were shown. This, for me, could have played the intelligent, cunning lady part for her.

Part I Liked Best

I liked best the part where Dana Evans and an interviewee was threatened with death by an assassin. I liked that part because of it’s hilarity, more than anything else. The “scene” was that an assassin barged into the living room of Evans’ interviewee, the sister of the sole witness and key to the whole mystery, and threatened both ladies with a loaded, lethal gun. And to avoid such an incident, Evans called on her station’s command post to put her on live TV. It was so hilarious then, imagining the whole thing–the assassin double-taking upon realizing that if he shot those women, the entire America would witness it.

It’s a bit uncharacteristic, especially following the entire novel’s seeming dark plot. Unnerving too, judging on how comic the whole thing appeared. Yet, it’s effective.

Overall (Personal) Rating

I’d say 3 pages. For three reasons: 1) the plot’s kinda different and exciting, although it’s a bit too fictitious; 2) there were references to ideologies that are, well, too idealistic; and 3) it’s still a spectacular mystery-thriller.

In closing, I just want to express how relieving it somehow feels for me to catch this copy of The Best Laid Plans. I must say, there’s something nostalgic that occurs when I read novels that my father and I share a liking for. I’ve been deviating from these types of novels–which I have dubbed before as something more fit for men–and to get back on such track feels cool.

The Odds of Casting

When the Harry Potter movie franchise continuously hit the screens and the hearts of its fans, the trio consisting of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson) was named epic for all they’re worth.

The Harry Potter Trio (snitchseeker.com)

And then came the next, well, so-called epic trio in the faces of Twilight‘s Bella (Kristen Stewart), Edward (Robert Pattinson) and Jacob (Taylor Lautner).

The Twilight Trio (twilight-movie.org)

Now, as both franchises are on their way to the end, a new set of characters is very much anticipated. This time, it’s the trio of the latest would-be craze in town: the Hunger Games.

After much bidding and guessing, the characters of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale now have faces for the silver screen through, respectively, Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth.

The New Hunger Games Trio (blog.zap2it.com)

True to what the producers dream for their film, the actors are fairly new in their trade, with only one or two previous films on their sleeves. Lawrence has earned a reputation with her Winter’s Bone, Hutcherson on The Kids are All Right, and Hemsworth on The Last Song.

Personally, I can’t say yet if they made a good choice or not. I have only seen Hemsworth on-screen and, well, I was not as partial because the story was not as demanding as Hunger Games will be. But of course, I do hope they will not disappoint the ever-expectant viewers. I, myself, am looking forward to the film because I’ve read the books and definitely if several hits were made I wouldn’t be as merciful.

To date, new additions to the cast came through Amandla Stenberg as Rue, Elizabeth Banks as Effie Trinket, and Willow Shields as Prim Everdeen. And while I look forward to the portrayals of these three characters, my anxiety over who’s gonna play Haymitch Abernathy and President Snow tops questions over the casting call.

Ultimately, the best is hoped and expected over the much acclaimed novel by Suzanne Collins. The roles are demanding, physically and artistically. But definitely, the success of the anticipated film will not only be on the shoulders of these young actors. Much has to be done in terms of the backstage production.

And with all of these, we could only say: “May the odds be ever in their favor!”

What Would Never be an Ugly Duckling

The last time I got my mind f***** over was when I watched Inception and in the review I made of it, I mentioned I rarely get to feel that over a movie. But, alas, once more I find the same mind of mine in the same state . . . this time over Black Swan.

Black Swan

It took me like a real long while to get my hands on that epic movie, only to find myself squirming and half-shrieking over all those nail-pulling and knife-slashing scenes. And, well, promising to get ready to watch it for a second time.

Until now, though, I haven’t made up my mind on the film. Black Swan is as complicated as its story, as complex as the characters, and as raw as its physicality.

It is a story about a ballerina, Nina Sayers, who gets obsessed over winning the role of Swan Queen for the new production of the ballet company she belongs to. To get the role, she has to be able to dance both the White and the Black Swan characters–opposites in the extreme, thus requiring dual personifications. Swan Lake’s (the production) director Thomas Leroy pushes Nina hard enough as she is already perfect to play the White Swan–hence, she only has to master being the Black, evil, twin Swan and then she’s off to queenship.

But the pressure, not altogether helped by new ballerina Lily who Nina thinks is on to get the role from her by any means, soon turns itself against the prime dancer. She begins seeing lucid, sexual, and often violent hallucinations on top of waking up everyday to a fresh-bloodied scratched skin.

The film revolves around these hallucinations and what happens in between as much as Nina’s foray into both her reality and black alter-ego. Ultimately, the end comes in a fashion that is both shocking and riotously reeling. With such an artful delivery, Black Swan defies a number of suspense-thrillers and retains for itself the kind of movie people are rarely treated to nowadays.

Production

When we begin to discuss the technicalities of a film, I prefer to bail. However, I have quite a number of points to make over the creation of Black Swan‘s that just this time, allow me to talk kind-of like someone who knows what she’s talking about.

The camera shots are just beautiful. With close-ups and full-blowns and pannings that covered most dances in a seamless fashion, the men behind the film did not let anyone miss on anything. I loved how dramatic the scenes were made albeit the seeming regularity of the settings. Although of course I would have done better without the leg-slashings and nail-pullings, I still think that the camera plays were widely helpful in making the story as fluid and clear as possible.

But the part that worked best for me? The musical score. It’s seriously creepy with the right amount of silence. I am always partial to scores that allow me to hear most of the story’s sounds, and Black Swan did just that.

On top of everything else, I think Black Swan is gifted with the most talented of backstage crews and stunt doubles (whatever the issues are). It is a movie that very much transcends both a big-prod and an indie: artistic and utterly realistic.

Cast

Enough with the technicals. Let’s be more, er, person-al. And take a lot of look at the hits and misses of Black Swan‘s superbly applauded cast.

Natalie Portman as Nina Sayers

As Nina Sayers

The lady looked really hot in her scenes, still or moving. She has an exceptionally-beautiful face that articulates emotions well enough to captivate an audience.

As the White Swan

Her dancing, whether or not she did it on her own, is also what it’s supposed to be: rigid and technical. But when she did the performance scenes where she had to actually dance the swans, she’s fantastic. ‘Nuff said, right?

As the Black Swan

Mila Kunis as Lily

As Lily

I must admit it’s in Black Swan that I actually and truly saw who Mila Kunis is and how she delivers. And boy was she good! She’s an instant hit for me, the girl with the small role who made it big enough for the world. I like the way she carried herself in the movie, how she spoke with a husky voice, and her inexplicably deep eyes. Ultimately, there’s nothing left to say except that I’m gonna find more of Mila’s film and indulge in her prowess again and again.

Winona Ryder as Beth Macintyre

As Beth Macintyre

I’ve missed Winona Ryder a number of times and then suddenly she’s back, with dripping mascara and a broken leg. She’s still good, but the smallness of her role is a seeming miss when showcasing what she has is considered. Just that, although I still love her face–even more because of the years she’s put in.

Vincent Cassel as Thomas Leroy

Learning His Role as Thomas Leroy

The mean director with a pea-sized brain for understanding. He’s got an extremely powerful stance, with the knowledge of the arts that makes any artist wanting to get the best first impression from him. I would probably love Leroy’s character if he had shown leniency in Sayer’s role at the middle of the story. For me, he’s the only one who could have saved everything but then he turned away.

I liked Cassel’s way of delivering his lines–stoic and plainly hurtful. I also liked his expressions, minute and wide. If it all comes to re-choosing the cast, I’d go for him over and over.

On the Whole

Probably what’s best about Black Swan is the fact that it’s not like any suspense-thriller that gives out bluntly the answer to its mystery. The film did the exact opposite, it was a question through and through with clues until the very end. Even the finale leaves its audience hanging enough to make them want to see the whole thing again . . . and again, at least until they understand the entire thing.

And even if you understand the story, there’s still one more thing that would leave you floating around without an answer: why?

Photos from: Rotten Tomatoes

Quickly

I. Am. Missing. Blogging.

Yeah, just like that. I have pending posts, actually. Lots of them.

Reviews:

1. Gulliver’s Travel

2. Love and Other Drugs

3. The Black Swan (Finally!)

4. To Kill a Mockingbird

 

Other Topic-based Posts:

1. Jennifer Lawrence Casted as Katniss Everdeen (I must, guys, please understand.)

2. The Not-so-good First Quarter of 2011 (Yeah, sadly)

3. On Drug Couriers and Embassy Policies (Too tough? Hope not.)

So I pretty much have a lot in mind to write about. And hopefully, I get to finish them all up for posting by this week.

My blogs are so gonna kill me already. And so does my grammar. LOL.

Chiao for now, see ya on . . . well, on the next post!