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Sin City

Posted by octobercountry on February 11, 2009 at 4:05 AM Comments comments (1)
This movie can be watched differently depending on what kind of person you are and what kind of movies you generally prefer. Normally I am not in to action movies, but sometimes they are a pure joy to watch if in the right mood.

But Sin City is no ordinary, mindless action movie, as it is built on Frank Millers graphic novels of the same name, it features a very interesting visual and stylized look with primarily black and white colours contrasted by gallons of blood that really stands out when the red colour fills the screen. In this way you really notice it, when there is colour on the screen, the brutal red colour of the blood, the sickening yellow of the Yellow Bastard, the tiny blue orbs of the blood thirsty hookers’ eyes. 

There is no overall story in Sin City, the movie consists of three different stories all following the characters of Sin City. That is not to say that there is no cohesion, because the atmosphere and setting of the city is more than enough to bind the stories together, and the stories do intertwine with characters from one part of the story doing “cameos” in another. 
There is the tough and dedicated cop portrayed by Bruce Willis, the human monster Marv with superhuman strength played by Mickey Rourke, there are bar maids, strippers, hookers, gangsters, hitmen, drunks, phychopathic killers and corrupt police officers. The diversity of the characters really serves to the overall characterization of the city in the typical noir sense that just ebbs of the milieu of the dark, dank, city filled with criminals and gutter heroes. Many of the characters are clichés, sure, but the thing is that you just don’t mind it, at least if you are able to let yourself sink in to the thick atmosphere of Sin City and not take it all so seriously.

I haven’t described the individual plot points because really just using the term Noir tells you all you need to know. The associations connected with this word are all found in Sin City and these themes and settings are very central to the movie. Some might be annoyed with the directors (Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller) for not choosing one story and carrying that out more detailed, but it is not the movie’s intent to describe a consistent story, but a whole city, and that can be better done by portraying the entire sprawling gallery of characters. And since there is a sequel in the making, we will see many new stories and new perspectives to the mighty Sin City.

You have to be in the right mindset to enjoy this movie however and the over-the-top, bloody action that frequents the screen from time to time might not be in everybody’s taste, but the beautiful and brutal aesthetics and visual, the clichéd but believable characters and the feel of the city are enough reasons for watching this movie.

 

 Here's a link if you want to check it out: Sin City at Amazon.co.uk  

The concept of the genre

Posted by octobercountry on February 3, 2009 at 8:32 AM Comments comments (0)

There are many ways to define a genre and there are even more different approaches when comparing different media like literature, movies and games. Let’s take literature first: Literary devices are one way, but this doesn’t seem to be effectful since any number of devices can be used in totally different contexts, and there are many elements that more immediately separates different works. The content is a good choice – since we as humans categorizes our interest this way, if one is interested in the Vietnam War, cryptology or magic any book dealing with the subject will do (For those who doesn’t care about writing style or author perspective, which I will discuss in a second) The author perspective is a more complex way to define a work as it requires deeper analysis than just being able to describe the plot and categorizing it that way. How does the author feel about what he is describing, what is his attitude towards the characters, the subject, the conflict, be it personal, societal or philosophical. 

This is of course not a complete list of characteristics and not intended as one, but simply material for further contemplation. 

How do we then define the genre when talking about games? The point of view/camera angle is one thing, the gameplay is another, but it seems that we very rarely define a game by its content, setting or style like in movies or literature. A game can be an FPS if it takes place in space, in future, present or past, in a war or a big city. It can be humorous or serious, cartoony or photo-realistic, but it still belongs in the category of the FPS.

This is different from movies that define it’s genres by action, comedy, thriller, drama or horror. These are overall categories but it seems that they have more in common than games that are in the same genre (or at least potential games, as there are far too many who mimic one another, e.g. WWII FPS’)

This is probably because gameplay is the defining characteristic of a game but there can still be so many differences between games in the same genre.

 

I myself do not like the concept of the genre especially when I am trying to categorize my own writing, something I try to avoid, but it is practically impossible as the first thing anyone wants to know about a novel or short story is what genre is or what it is about. The preceding elements of genre-placing are just a few out a million different that together defines an individual work and choosing just one defining characteristic seems hard to do. That is my problem with the genre – it doesn’t really say anything about a work, doesn’t explain if it is well written or what conflicts it deals with or how the composition of the story. It is like using a number to determine whether a book is worth reading – it tries to tell us something, but ultimately fails because of lack of information. Reading reviews are the only real option short of reading the actual book or playing the game, if you want to know whether it will appeal to you, but in the end you will never know before you pick up the book or game and experience it for yourself. 



Edgar Allan Poe

Posted by octobercountry on January 3, 2009 at 7:35 AM Comments comments (0)
I want to take a moment and talk about this great 19th century writer and some of his best works because I find them both deeply touching, aesthetically beautiful, complex, strange and interesting. The reason for this recommendation is that I have recently finished a major school project on two of his works, The Raven, and Ligeia, focusing on the connection between love, life and death. And he truly made that connection work. Ligeia contains the most beautiful descriptions of female beauty that have ever graced this planet and you cannot help but feel truly amazed when reading it. And still, there is something ominous about it, because the descriptions are so detailed that you begin to question if the narrator?s fascination with the lady Ligeia is completely ordinary, because delving that deeply into every detail of her features can seem a bit? voyeuristic or strange, the same way that a kid can have some sick fascination with blood and gore. But if you don?t overread it or overanalyze it and just enjoy the exquisite beauty of his prose, then none of this will matter. 

The Raven is a poem that needs no introduction, and should be read whether or not you are interested in poetry simply because of it?s musically and lightly flowing language, rhythm and rhyme. These are classic examples of romanticist writing and also contain elements of the gothic style that was very popular at Poe?s time. 

The stories of Dupin ought to be mentioned as well, the master detective, with whom Poe invented the modern detective story. These three stories are a study in the art of logic and rationalisation and figuring out a crime simply by applying a logical mind and being very aware of the clues given. 

Some other stories I have enjoyed include "Thou art the man," William Wilson, The Man of the Crowd and The Facts in the case of M. Valdemar. Some are tales of crime and punishment, some of guilt, some are psycological, some are just out right strange and disturbing, but all top quality.

Some of his most known works such as The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat and The Fall of the House of Usher is also worth a look, and if you have read any of these, then you will know whether Poe is a writer who appeals to you ? because his style can be terribly heavy and drawn out, borderline boring, some might say, but if you can get used to the slow pace, he is a great writer. 

Poe did not write a whole lot of fiction in his short life time (just 40 years) a single novel which I have yet to read, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, about 60-70 short stories and 40 poems, but he was still an incredibly gifted writer and one those great Americans who managed to reinvent and invent a lot of genres and styles. 

You can probably find most of his works online, and if you enjoy his style, The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe at Amazon.co.uk are a must! 

Different Seasons by Stephen King

Posted by octobercountry on January 2, 2009 at 7:05 AM Comments comments (0)
Different Seasons is a collection of four long stories and it is very different to some of the stuff that King has been writing, hence the title. They aren't horror stories, and I am hesitant to confine them to one specific genre (like King I don't really like the concept of the genre) but I guess they are a mixture of mainstream and literary fiction. Either way, they range in the top of what I have read of King (about ten novels and neither It nor The Shining). 
Some might recognise the title of the first story in the collection Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption from the film version which received much praise. It is a remarkably quick read this story, only 130 pages, taken into account that the plot stretches out over a period of around thirty years or so, and could easily be turned into a full size novel without losing its appeal. We follow the life of Andy Dufresne a man innocently convicted of the murder of his wife and his hardships in prison, his friendship with Red, the narrator, and his relationship with the warden. It is a story about hope and despair, of confinement and the consequences, of finding the truth and of many other things. 
Right from the start I found great involvement with the story and one the main reasons for this, (and The Body, too) is the language of the narrator who gets all the slang of the time period and of the place, and it contributes immensely to the overall qualities of the story. 
The Apt Pupil is the longest of the four and the one I enjoyed the most, and it tells the story of a young school named Todd boy who discovers that one of the neighbourhood residents is a former high ranking SS officer. Todd is a strange boy; he doesn't go the authorities like most would, in stead he blackmails the old man to tell him stories of the war and how he tortured the Jews in the concentration camps, all the "gooshy parts," as he puts it. The beauty of this story lies in the relationship between and characterization of the two and how they evolve throughout the story. Initially you actually feel sorry for the old man, because he just seems like a nice old granddad with arthritis and not like any sort of evil person, and you feel antipathy towards the boy because of his sick and intense fascination with blood gore.
The Body has also been made into a film called Stand By Me, and is a tale of four boys who go out into the woods to find a dead body and on the way there talk, fight and play like boys do. It paints a great picture of boyhood, friendship and of the true joys of life. It is also titled Fall from Innocence, because the four boys' journey through the woods along the train tracks is too a story of growing up realizing what death really means and realizing that life isn't all fun and play, it can be both serious, filled with pain and complicated. 
The Breathing Method is to my mind the weakest of the four stories, partly because it doesn't quite fit into the collection with it being slightly more horrific than the rest, and partly because the plot don't really seem that important. It is about a man who goes to a mysterious club and hears a tale of a pregnant woman and her difficulties. The story itself doesn't make much sense and unlike the three previous stories, it doesn't have any message or deals with any important theme. Well, perhaps I'm being too hard on it, the themes of controlling oneself and that determination means a lot are present, but the other stories are just much better. 
In short, King's qualities lie in his deep characterizations and feel for real and important people, and that makes this collection a really good. If you have read some of King's other works, Different Seasons will show, that he can write something other than horror, and if you have never read King before, this collection will introduce you to his amazing qualities without scaring you away with unnecessary blood and gore. 

Like the review? Then here's the book! Different Seasons at Amazon.co.uk

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Posted by octobercountry on January 1, 2009 at 8:15 AM Comments comments (0)

The Road is quite a peculiar novel since there isn't much of a plot to speak of. A boy and his father walk along a road in a post apocalyptic setting where the snow is grey and living human beings are a rare sight. 

But despite lack of action you keep on reading, because this book's primary qualities lie in the conversations between the father and son which more often than not are about when they are going to die. The characterization is mostly accomplished by what they say and it works very well, because there isn't much to do other than talk in the burned down world in which they walk. The boy announcing that his father can't leave him because he is scared, that he is hungry, and the father devoted to the task of protecting his son always reassuring him that they will survive and that he shouldn't worry. 
The whole setting is so bleak and tragic that you cannot help but feel empathy with the two main characters that seems to be all alone in this depressing world. All of the novel?s elements go extremely well with each other, the lack of plot, the grey landscape and the simple but yet touching conversations between father and son. 
Thrown together, this creates an atmosphere and an entire world that seems complete and without flaws and more importantly believable, even though it is never explained how the world got to be like this. That is left for us to imagine ? world war III? A global natural disaster? You don't know and that wonderment is part of what keeps you reading.

It is hard to find any complaints regarding this book because it is very well written, but something that bothered me was the lack of punctuation. Perhaps this was only in the Danish translation, I cannot say, but that did throw me off a few times. Another thing you have to get used to when reading this book, is that there are no inquits at all, no indication of who is talking or when someone is talking, though it doesn't take very long to adjust. 

In conclusion The Road is a very touching book and it is definitely a good read but the fact that not much happens in the book might cause some readers to put this book down after a while. It is a simple and immersive novel and paints a depressing but still compelling picture of a broken tomorrow.

Like the review? Then here's the book! The Road at Amazon.co.uk


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