Meme in G

Jan. 4th, 2017 09:38 am
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Picked up from [personal profile] heliopausa : you ask for a letter and then think of five fictional characters whose name begins with that letter, and write your comments and ideas on them.

When I asked her for a letter, I feared I would end up with one that Czech names don't usually begin with. Of course I was given G which is exactly one such letter. Over half of the following characters' names don't involve it in Czech.

But, surprisingly, once I got started, the rest flowed very quickly.

Gordon Urquhart (I hope I spelled it correctly...), from Local Hero – is frankly a mystery to me; but that’s actually part of what makes Local Hero fun. He’s a shrewd, smooth businessman in a community where everyone has to hold several jobs; as the story progresses, one begins to think simutaneously that he’s wasted there, that he’s exactly the man this community needs, and that he'd gleefully drive it to ground for money (but then, so would the rest of the community...). And he’s played by Dennis Lawson, so you believe it all. The interplay between him and Mac, Gordon trying to butter up Mac and drive a hard bargain and Mac swiftly not giving a damn (I’m at a loss at how to describe "not giving a damn" progressively?) – that’s an integral part of the core of the story in Local Hero, and a lot of fun to watch. So Gordon has to be smooth and therefore a bit faceless; but as I said, as played by Dennis Lawson, he is all that and still very memorable. (Which is best exemplified by the fact that he was the first fictional character with a name beginning with G I could think of that I could imagine myself writing about and wasn’t my own :D). Hm, I should watch more films with Dennis Lawson. He does seem to have an inate ability to make characters memorable.

Goldberry – from The Fellowship of the Ring. Doesn’t get much space in the books, but she does make a deep and lasting impression, feeding right into stories of water fairies, to put into English the way I think of it in Czech. Which, of course, doesn’t make much sense with the way fairies are usually perceived in English these days. That was, I believe, precisely Tolkien’s point in writing about such characters.

She’s actually not dangerous like Slavic water fairies are (at least not in this story), but she certainly radiates power, in a bit of foreshadowing for the way Galadriel is portrayed later in the book. Why did I think of Goldberry before Galadriel? Probably precisely because she’s a category of character I was already familiar with when first reading the books, so she rests somewhere more firmly in my subconscious. Even though her name doesn’t begin with G in Czech. (It’s Zlatěnka in Czech.)

The impression I have of her is hugely visual. I'm not sure if it's just because I'm so visual myself, or because that's really mostly what we get. But what I get from that about her as a character is that she has a knack for making an impression. That would go a long way towards explaining how she made an impression on Tom Bombadil, who, if anything, is characterised by being above (?) things. And her hospitality shows that she's not just that.

– and now that I’ve thought of Tolkien, there’s actually a wide choice of G characters to pick from. I chose to go with Gimli, because of Gimli and Legolas, who demonstrate one of my favourite literary moments... motifs... something; namely, the way two characters are stronger together, not just in the universe of the book (although that’s certainly also true), but even more so, for the reader.

Gimli, on his own, is mostly the token dwarf in the Fellowship (pretty much literally). He has his moments, but were it not for his friendship with Legolas – even though we actually never learn how exactly that happened! – his gradual character development would probably be passing and somewhat unmemorable. Even his devotion to Galadriel would probably be a lot less impactful, were it the only connection to the Elves he formed; but now that he springs to her defence in front of Éomer and Legolas springs to Gimli’s defence against the Riders in the same scene, the shift in Gimli’s attitude is firm and unshakable. His friendship with Legolas seals the deal, and also makes it absolutely clear that this is one of the good guys who are going to save the world and who are worthy of saving the world. (A lesson a lot of the “saving the world” genre could take a few pages from.)

Plus, Gimli’s description of the Glittering Caves is, in my personal opinion, one of the most beautiful things Tolkien’s ever written. It’s probably insulting to Dwarves to say that one passage completely humanises Dwarves, but my human readers will know what I mean.

Magrat Garlick
from Discworld – surnames count, don’t they?

Whoo, Magrat. She’s like someone I know, except I don’t really know anyone quite like her. I love that Pratchett’s able to do that. I have my problems with him, but I love that he’s able to do that.

She’s insecure and has odd beliefs (I mean, even among the witches in the books) and half the time you roll your eyes at her ideas, and you still root for her, her success against the villains, her progress in the world and her awkward romance. I'm unable to dissect this the way I was able to dissect Gimli, but I think part of the trick is seeing into her head in her Crowning Moments of Awesome. It makes her both relatable and kind of aspirational. We don't usually get this with Granny Weatherwax in her Crowning Moments of Awesome, only in what leads up to them, which makes Granny both seem even more awesome but also more distant. Granny's the shining leader (with lots of faults), Magrat is the underdog you root for.

Also, a group (Eh... what exactly is the terminology here? “Voluntary association”, as provided by Wikipedia, sounds weird.) for free time activities in my hometown, founded largely by women (including two of my art teachers), was named after her ("Magráta"). I wasn’t familiar with Magrat yet when it happened. Now that I am, I wholeheartedly approve of that choice of name. It’s exactly the sort of pursuit she would approve of.

– my take on Glimfeather can be summed up thusly:

“You can't trust mammals to know a thing about Birds, tu-whoo. But you do know that female Owls are bigger than males, don’t you?”

A huge part of the reason I insist on keeping female Glimfeather is precisely because it doesn't matter whether Glimfeather as a character is male or female (aside from my hobby-horse fact above: it would presumably be even easier for a female Owl to carry a human child). Glimfeather is default; Lewis defaulted to male and the translator defaulted to female. There's a sad shortage of default female animal characters, even in books originally written in Czech (like, more tomcats than female cats in popular Czech children's books, even though cat is default female). Jill, for example, isn't as default as that. For one thing, she plays up her femininity when it suits her; the surrounding characters do treat her differently. Glimfeather, being a Bird and an Owl in particular, can be either and we mammals would be none the wiser (which is also my headcanon for why Lewis treats her as default male).

Glimfeather's obviously following the "wise owl" trope, which apparently isn't true in Real Life. But this is Narnia, so who cares. What I like is that she's shrewd and common-sense: her wisdom is practical, active (unlike the completely satirical Owl-Wol in Winnie-the-Pooh or the Owl in the Czech Little Mole cartoons, who's learned but rather out of touch as a result).

And I like that she's one of the Beasts who are very obviously Beasts.

So... if you want, and haven't done this yet (or maybe even if you have), you can ask me for a letter, too.

Also: happy new year!
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Revisited a film blog I used to read. Groggy's a cinephile, which for some reason goes hand in hand with a certain slightly (or less slightly) pretentious-sounding style of writing, especially in males, but Groggy's better than most, I think. He's down-to-earth enough not to land on the super-intellectual side, and intellectual enough not to land on the other side - I'm not sure what to call it - basically the blockbuster-consuming side that can get particularly pretentious because they're too much "of the moment". His reviews are analytical, well-worded and well-rounded. He's got a solid background in cinematographic history, he's fairly good at admitting his biases, and he's got the good sense to understand that repeated viewings can change one's mind. So all in all, I respect his opinions.

Anyway, I came across his old review of The Nun's Story (which I haven't seen, and now want to), and this:

"Even worse, a seemingly never-ending chain of Hollywood films and TV shows seems grimly determined to convince us that religion is a sham, and religious people are inherently evil - murderers, pedophiles, or hypocrites all."

Goodness gracious, yes. And it's not just Hollywood. A lot of British production is equally guilty. The overwhelming Czech agnosticism doesn't help.
It's pretty funny that I've seen the most sympathetic yet not equally gratingly propagandistic, fairly realistic in its universe, portrayals of Christianity / Catholicism in TV - beside the occasional moments in the Czech series Četnické humoresky, and beside Murdoch Mysteries, which are both period pieces - in the German series Alarm für Cobra 11, which is an unapologetic over-the-top explosions fest, and the main character is Turkish... And I'm not even Catholic. But the fact that a lot of the film world seems equally convinced that Christianity = Catholicism doesn't help...

Oh, and Groggy's glowing recommendations of A Man for all Seasons are responsible for me having seen it eventually, and on that count I'm also very grateful to him, because that's definitely one of the better films I've seen. So if you want a good film review blog that isn't overly concerned with current blogbusters and actually delves into cinematographic history, I think I can wholeheartedly recommend him.

* * *

Speaking of films and Christianity, have any of you seen, or even heard of, Risen?
That film fascinates me, because it's so utterly, utterly fanfictiony.

I realised this because the more I thought about its strengths and its weaknesses, the more I realised I'd seen those before... in fanfiction.

The greatest of the weaknesses I saw in it is the tenth walker syndrome - the fact that the outsider protagonist joins the core canon group and plays an important role for the canon story that does not mesh well with actual canon. So there it was, fanfiction! That is, actually, exactly what it is, biblical fanfiction.

In this case, the protagonist, Clavius, eventually joins the remaining eleven disciples on their way to Gallilee and plays an important role in them actually getting there. And then, at the end of it, he's kind of left hanging, because he cannot go on being in the story as we know it. The ending isn't as bad as this makes it sound, but his previous vital role kind of grated in the way "Mary Sue-ish" moments in fanfiction are wont to do. With a few exceptions, the disciples are mostly interchangeable, which is a pity.

It's also an "outsider POV" type of piece. It's a gapfiller. It is even, to some extent, a worldbuilding type of piece (because we see a lot more of the Romans than we do in the Bible).

It also firmly follows in the tradition of casting Mary Magdalene as a prostitute, which, after reading Mika Waltari's version of her, seems like a very cheap shot. Even though I think she's otherwise treated really well. She gets to be calm in the face of intimidation and have an inner strength and reassurance, without pathos, and that's a rare yet, in my opinion, probably the most faithful portrayal of actual faith.

It's pretty uneven in tone between its acts, and it's not perfect, but it's fascinating, and I have a nagging need to write fanfiction of this fanfiction. I'm actually rather surprised that there isn't any.

* * *

I can't decide if I do or do not want to see Anthropoid. It's going to be gory and I don't like the thought of that (I wasn't keen on that in Risen and it's overall a trend of contemporary cinematography I could do without, although here it's more justified than in many other cases). I also know how it ends, like any Czech remotely interested in history does. But from all other accounts, it also sounds like the kind of film I would enjoy, as much as one can enjoy a tragic drama.

Someone praised it for not using music continually, so that's one of the things it apparently checks for me. I'm fed up with continual musical background in films. It loses a lot of its impact if it's there all the time, and moreover, it often makes it more difficult to make out what's actually going on.

People also alternately praise and bash it for slow buildup. I would probably fall on the praising side, because I'm also mostly fed up with the frantic pace of most of today's films.

It basically sounds like the kind of film I would watch, thoroughly engrossed, once: and once is enough, for mostly the good reasons rather than the bad ones.

Except that I also can't shake the feeling that I don't need to see it even once.

* * *

By the way, you had also all convinced me to see Fury Road. I loved it. And most people I know in Real Life I could never ever recommend it to.

It's basically almost everything I love in Sergio Leone, only even weirder and without the highly dubious treatment of women (and a comparison like that would be a good way to explain why Fury Road is better in its treatment of women, despite stuff. But I'm not going to go there now.)
Someone on Tumblr very thoroughly explained how it's visual storytelling, and that sums it up well. Why it's almost everything I love about Sergio Leone. And also part of why I can't recommend it to a lot of people I know.

* * *

Random thought. When I come across the ongoing debates about the relative values of the original Star Wars trilogy and the prequels. Namely when I come across Phantom Menace bashing. (I've recently encountered a fan edit of the prequels that people praised for basically leaving the whole of it out.) I can't bash Phantom Menace. Beside other reasons to like it, it's one of the films I saw in cinema with my mother, only the two of us, and we were holding our hands tightly during the pod race, and say what you will, that's an experience I will cherish for the rest of my life.
marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)
Says a Czech proverb.
The little annoying and soul-searching experience from the previous post has just fed into the blasted transitional 19th chapter of The Peridan Chronicles that has been stalling my progress for over a year. Joy!
It's not finished yet, but it's much closer to finishing than it had been for over a year. I think you can expect it before Christmas. And the chapter after it soon after it, most likely, to make up for the long lack of updates to this story. Phew!

In other news, I've watched the Kenneth Brannagh / Emma Thompson version of Much Ado About Nothing, and enjoyed it very much, despite being distracted by the not-really-quite-accurate-for-any-time costumes (that's a trait of mine I'll always have to contend with, I fear) and the fact that I found the Dogberry scenes a bit lacking. In a funny way. Through being too much. I think he and his cohort are made more of a bunch of fools there than I find palatable in film form; it would probably work better on stage. Kenneth Brannagh and Emma Thompson are both a joy to watch, though.
There might be some correspondence between Shakespeare and my bout of Narnianish inspiration. It's certainly an idea that bears further exploration; I have yet to see Branagh's Henry V, which is a shortcoming I should correct as soon as possible.

Oh, and I've read, so far, about a tenth or so of Augustin's Confessions. It's a strange book. It reads weirdly, like he's approaching it all from an angle I cannot penetrate; like I would have had to live at his time to really understand what he's talking about and the issues he's wrestling with and the angle he's going at it from. Or like he has a sort of thinking personality that's very foreign to me. But at the same time, in retrospect, I find that he addresses very timeless issues, which probably accounts for the timeless appeal of the book. Like the ways we relate to fiction and live through the tragedies of fictional characters. Which he disapproves of, I think, on the basis of the pagan-based theatre at his time being immoral. I wonder what he would have made of something like Shakespeare? (Shakespeare can be such a contrary animal.) And the claim Sienkiewicz makes in Quo Vadis via Paul to Petronius that informed Christian art would reach new heights? (I think of Gothic architecture and Tolkien and Lewis and stuff and find myself in tentative agreement with Sienkiewicz.) And fanfiction! He would be horrified at the majority of it.
The way he dismisses fiction, he reminds me of a man I had a conversation with once in the street, over a book of Chesterton's short stories he found in a trash can. (He dismissed it and I snatched it up afterwards. Ha!) I still haven't figured out how to make the case for fiction since then, but I think I believe in it even more strongly now. It's an interesting experience to disagree with such a hallowed book.

It's an interesting experience for me as a Czech Protestant who's fairly recently read some texts that are kind of the basis of Czech Protestantism and found myself so much in agreement with them that they were almost... superfluous to me? My sister reported the same experience with such texts; either they are so much the basis of what we grew up in that that happens, or - or it's pretty chilling to think just how bad the Catholic church of the time must have been for them to be necessary.
I think I should read more old texts like that to figure out just how much of my thinking is present there and how much isn't, and why. It's quite illuminating to see what changes with time and place and personality, and what remains constant.

And of course, there's still things one can learn from them.


marmota_b: Photo of my groundhog plushie puppet, holding a wrapped present (Default)

June 2017



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