Monday, January 06, 2014
Before viewing The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, I expected to see an overlong, terribly adapted film. Those expectations were correct. However, I did not expect to see a pretty great film about personal responsibility, selfishness, and greed. Boy, did I get one. This is a movie--let's stop there and bunny trail. This is a movie. I can look at it as a very loose adaptation of Tolkien's work, but in the end, a movie stands alone, and that is how I am viewing it, even it is based on a book that has been one of my favorites since George H Bush was in office.
Anyway, this is a movie where the heroes are actually the villains. At the beginning of the film, someone tells the heroes that the heroes don't care about anyone they view as less than themselves. Sure enough, the protagonists end up putting their own goals and dreams ahead of the lives and well being of a group of people less "important" than they are. Thus, the final words of the cliffhanger ending are "what have we done?" In between those two scenes are the greatest barrel-ride ever-filmed, enough orc heads to fill the Superdome, and one awesome-looking, awesome-sounding dragon. I've seen it twice, and it was even better the second time. Great characters, great theme, great action.
On top of that, the end-credits song is really great--beautiful work, even if it is sung by a ginger--and sums up the plot and theme of the film.
Friday, January 03, 2014
Thanks to my increased scholastic obligations, I read less this past year than any year since 1999. 1999 was the year I first started working for the man, but also increased obligations to my Nintendo 64. My 2013 reading list actually mirrors that list in a way, as I read a big Tom Clancy book and a couple other things (actually, in 1999, just Clancy and Timothy Zahn's Thrawn Trilogy). Also like 1999, I played enough Nintendo 64 to realize I needed to start a website dedicated to that very special machine. Here is a shameless plug for that website, followed by my 2013 Booklist.
VISIT THE NINTENDO 64 MUSEUM! WE HAVE CLOWNS! MONKEYS!! MONKEY CLOWNS!!!
Nature Wars--Sterba (A pretty incredible and shocking nonfictional book about American's past and present relationship with our fauna. Sterba's evenhandedness and lack of an agenda is shocking in this partisan age.)
The Tin Soldiers-Schwab (Another enjoyable read by Project 86 frontman, Andrew Schwab. This time he tries his hand at a book of devotions for men. Nothing deep enough to confuse the reader, but also more depth than one would expect from the frontman of a band who writes "Caveman Jams.")
A History of Pointe Coupee Parish, Louisiana--Costello (Historian, Brian Costello, uses his love, knowledge, and exhaustive research of the parish we both call home to write a near Tolkien-esque tome of our local history. I've never been prouder to call this bend in the river home.)
The Book of the Dun Cow--Wangerin, Jr. (A wonderful battle of good barnyard animals versus some very dark forces of evil. There's a passage of a victorious rooster moping in the rain that sums up the human condition better than almost anything I've ever read.)
The Book of Sorrows--Wangerin, Jr. (This sequel to a children's book about evil-fighting barnyard animals is absolutely one of the darkest books I have ever read. Unforgivably brutal, except the mind-blowing final chapter, which is forgiving AND brutal. A truly excellent book.)
Executive Orders--Clancy (I read this mammoth throughout the year. This has got to be Clancy's magnum opus. War, espionage, government workings, it is all amped to maximum capacity as Clancy elects Jack Ryan, his chief creation, President. I had so much fun reading Executive Orders this year, I have to admit, I took the news of Clancy's death particularly hard.)