Thoughts on the death of Terry Pratchett

For those of you who visit this blog regularly it won’t come as a surprise that I feel a deep sense of loss at the passing of the great man that was Sir Terry Pratchett. I didn’t know him personally of course, but there are many out there feeling sorrow who likewise never were lucky enough to meet him, and were instead simply touched by his words, his stories, and his characters. I have been absent from this blog for a little while, and his passing has brought me back. I need to talk about Terry Pratchett.

Credit: The Telegraph

He was, and remains, my favourite author. I looked forward to every new Discworld book that was released, excited for the clever satire, the gentle puns, the sarcastic asides. Mr Pratchett created some of my favourite fictional characters, and it hurts that I will never read another one of his original tales.

Like many people, my favourite strain of Pratchett’s world were the stories that followed the Nightwatch of Ankh Morpork, especially when there were scenes that featured Commander Vines and Patrician Vetinari (extra points for when Carrot and his seeming inability to lie were involved). Terry Pratchett created worlds seemingly effortlessly, with political structures and ways of life portrayed in such a casual way. His casual dismissal of democracy, viewed in Ankh-Morpork as no way to run a civilised society, was in fact one of my favourite things about his fictional world.

Completely removed from Discworld, Good Omens, which Terry Pratchett wrote with Neil Gaiman, is in fact my favourite book (tied with the much darker Catch-22), again because of the excellent characters and easy wit. Crowley and Aziraphale are maybe two of my favourite literary creations of all time.

And of course no one can mention Terry Pratchett and not mention how he seemingly re-created Death (or should that be DEATH?) – he managed to make the spectre of doom awkward, likeable and even relatable, as when Death tries to work on his customer service skills or takes time off from his job of collecting the deceased.

His passing is greatly saddening for me. I will miss his work, his campaigning and what he brought to the genre of fantasy. Let the legacy of this great author live on.

Film of the Week: Zombieland

ZOMBIELAND
FILM 4, Thurs 5th February, 11.10pm

Credit: Deadline

I find myself picking a lot of comedies for FOTW. I’ll take a guess and say that while I love dramatic films, the ones I’ll put on repeat are the ones that make me laugh. This one definitely does the trick; it’s just one of those movies I can watch over and over again. It’s just smart enough, silly enough and crazy enough that it doesn’t get at all boring on repeat viewings, while also managing to be very, very funny. Warning though: contains gore (in a funny way).

Rep Life Part Deux – Dealing with life in the cold

For me the best season is summer. It’s hot, it’s shorts-weather, it’s the season where you stay outside all day and play sports, read books, chill out doing nothing. Even when you’re working and you’re sweltering inside, well, at least you’re not cold.

The worst season is winter. It’s never warm outside and even inside it’s dicey because the heating stops working and suddenly you’re living in an ice cube (true story if you’re interested). Yes snow is fun, but only for a little bit because then you have to drive to work and, all of a sudden, that takes twice as long in a car where – yep, you guessed it – the heating’s stopped working (my family aren’t the best at getting things fixed before they absolutely need to be).

So maybe moving to the Alps for five months in winter, when the temperature plummets and it snows all the time (I mean all the time) was not such a good idea on my part.

I have started to get used to the seemingly arctic temperatures, but it’s tough. Today I was out in the wind, snow and just plain cold for half an hour wearing a not very thick coat and jeans. I don’t understand how anyone can enjoy that – my feet were numb. What’s enjoyable about having numb feet!?

One of my uni housemate’s favourite season was winter, and we consistently had disagreements about it. How? Just how? There is nothing fun about it. Some of the views of things (a.k.a. mountains, trees and ESF instructors) covered in snow are beautiful, but you get these sorts of views in warm, dry places too. Just take Nepal for example, or Yosemite. Both stunning, both warm and both incredible experiences.

In total, I have not been dealing with the cold very well – instead I have decided to view it as a challenge. When I am interviewed in the future and they ask me to describe a challenging experience, living in an ice-box for almost half a year may be what I go with.

I love, love doing my season. It’s great. Now, if it was in Croatia in the summer, it would be perfect. As it is, I’ll just have to wrap up warm and brave the cold in order to get a beer and some decent internet for the next three months.

Can someone in a summer blockbuster die please?

Spoilers for The Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy, The Book Thief, Avengers Assemble, Edge of Tomorrow, Frozen, How To Train Your Dragon 2… Basically if it’s a summer blockbuster you haven’t seen, it may be spoiled ahead.

Last summer I went to watch Captain America: The Winter Soldier at the cinema with my friends. Not convinced by the first Captain America film I didn’t hold high hopes for this one either, but I went to see it nonetheless, at least in part because of the great reviews it was getting. And it was good. Oh, it was so entertaining! When Nick Fury was shot – and then dead – I kept thinking, “Oh my God, no. They can’t kill him. They can’t.”

Turns out, they couldn’t. And this ended up putting a sour note on the whole film.

I’m so tired of going to the cinema and seeing people die, only to know that they’ll be alive again, you just have to give it half an hour or so. To be fair to The Winter Soldier, I had started to think that Fury was actually dead, so while my disappointment at seeing him alive was higher I wasn’t completely apathetic to the trick yet – it did elicit some emotion rather than boredom. With Guardians of the Galaxy, however, it was so obvious that Root was going to reappear that it just irritated me. What was even the point? His death had caused such emotion turmoil (on screen) only for all that action to be rendered essentially hollow by the end where he’s dancing (admittedly, humourously) on the table. Even Avengers Assemble, which I had thought had actually done the impossible for second there and killed off Agent Coulson, lost it’s emotional weight somewhat when he turns out to be alive in the Agents of Shield TV series.

Marvel isn’t alone. Summer blockbuster Edge of Tomorrow had me hooked until the end where – you guessed it – everyone’s alive and well. Even darker movies such as The Dark Knight Rises had deaths-that-weren’t-really-deaths.

I didn’t mind it so much for TDKR (though that film had many other problems for me) but in Edge of Tomorrow, The Winter Soldier, it all felt like cheating. Why was it that Harry Potter had such an emotional impact? JK Rowling wasn’t afraid of killing off main characters who we loved and cared about. The book The Book Thief hurt you, but the deaths resulted in a novel that stayed with you long after you read the last page. The same for Star Wars – what sort of films would they be if Obi Wan Knobi had lived? And The Dark Knight. After Rachel died I had exactly the same mental shock that I had at seeing Nick Fury ‘die’ – the “They can’t kill her” moment. Glued to my seat, I sat,repeating, “They can’t kill her, she must be alive.” They could, and she wasn’t, and the film was all the better for it.

Even children’s films feel braver than Hollywood at the moment. In the past you had The Lion King and Bambi, but even recently there were the deaths of Elsa and Anna’s parents in Frozen and Hiccup’s dad in How to Train Your Dragon 2. Why is it that movie producers think that children can accept death and adults can’t? Or that adults will be okay with having their emotions toyed with, feeling the sense of loss only for the emotion to be considered void? I understand that children won’t go to see a film because Gerard Butler is voicing Stoick in the same way that an adult may see The Avengers because they like Samuel L. Jackson, but there has got to be a better way to play with emotions than just killing off characters only to bring them back to life again.

It feels as if Hollywood is stuck in a rut. They don’t want to alienate anyone, make anyone too sad. Instead they look scared – they avoid going to the dark place that is killing off a character, and it results in far less memorable films than would otherwise be possible. Imagine an ending to Edge of Tomorrow where all the characters died. Yes, it would be depressing, but it would also be different and so much more memorable. Instead, we got the standard Hollywood ending. Yes, the film was good, but it wasn’t great, and that ending was a main problem in that for me.

I’m wary to see the new Avengers film because I think a character will die only to be resurrected. I hope I’m wrong – I want an actual emotional element to a film, not a half-done, manipulating set of scenes – but I don’t think I am. We’ll see, I guess. I’ll see the movie anyway, so I suppose I’m just fueling the situation, aren’t I?

Film of the Week: The Day of the Jackal

THE DAY OF THE JACKAL
ITV4, Mon 26th January 11.00pm

Credit: Wikipedia

I’ll be honest; I never saw the end of The Day of the Jackal. I was watching it in a lecture at university – the lecture ended, the film didn’t, and I never followed it up to see the end despite being gripped while I was watching it. Here is where I make that up. I am abroad, but Sky+ is going to record this for me – I hope the end is as enjoyable as the beginning.

Little Women

Bah! No internet again (or at least, very, very, very bad internet) has it’s pros and cons. Con: I can’t watch any films or TV (Dear White People, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, wait for me) and obviously I have been having trouble blogging. But pros: I have been doing so much reading. I am finally making my way through Harry Potter in French, which I had been distracted from because it’s difficult and, you know, Youtube. I’ve read Band of Brothers and am trying to decide between the book and the television series as to which is better. And, longest of all, I read Little Women. (Spoilers ahead.)

What struck me most about this book was how dated it was. Usually with classics, despite being set in an older time, they’re different for their time – think of Jane Eyre‘s modern look at women, or the way Jane Austen and Charles Dickens mock or challenge society in their works. This is not Little Women. It’s moral, religious, and while women can be independent, there are still very much set gender roles. This was surprising for me, and despite the fact the book was enjoyable I did find these things distract me from the story: I would find myself, instead of being swept along with the plot, stopping to think about how out-dated this or that idea was.

Some things were modern, Jo being the most obvious example. The way she turned down Laurie and just generally lived – wanting to travel, writing her books and compromising herself in order to earn money – were novel. When she changed to writing only what she wanted to, this was a decision that made sense to me, but other such changes didn’t. This was actually true for most of the characters’ development – all of the women seemed to become ‘perfect’ almost instantaneously, especially Jo and Amy. At the beginning of the book they all had their flaws; by the end they all had none. It particularly irritated me that Jo gave up her writing dreams as soon as she got married – it wasn’t a case of her deciding to settle, she just no longer cared, just like that. It made no sense to me.

I did like the different writing styles Louisa May Alcott used – letters, newsletters, plays, poems – as well as prose. And please don’t misunderstand me; I did really enjoy the book! The way it dealt with death was refreshing and I liked a lot of the religious themes and conversations as it isn’t often you read books where the characters are that open with their religion. But it isn’t my favourite classic, and there were problems with it, the character development being a particular issue for me. I don’t think I’ll revisit it for a while, but maybe it improves upon second viewing. And if the internet keeps up the way it is at the moment, I might have to resort to a reread sooner than I previously thought!

Good Omens: The Radio Version

For anyone who’s interested, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’s Good Omens has just been aired on BBC Radio Four, and is available to listen to worldwide. Yes, that’s right. Worldwide. That means little old me in France didn’t have to suffer the crushing disappointment of having my favourite book be turned into a radio series and not be able to listen to it because I was in France; no, instead geography did not stand in my way and I was able to listen to every episode. It was glorious.

IMG_20140603_121353989

For anyone who has been following my blog since June, you may have realised I love Terry Pratchett, probably because I stated, more than once, that I love Terry Pratchett. I think he’s great, and, yes, Good Omens is my favourite novel (tied with the equally brilliant but quite different Catch-22). Therefore I was worried this radio series would be a disaster – surely it wouldn’t live up to the greatness of the book! Well, it didn’t, but it tried really hard and was very entertaining.

I was tied between think that Peter Serafinowicz and Mark Heap were perfect for Crowley and Aziraphale, and then at some points thinking they were not quite right. I know the book so well so maybe some of the line readings weren’t as I had pictured them in my head. However their chemistry as the frenemy demon and angel was insanely good.  Anathema and Newton were great, as were Shadwell and Madame Tracy. All their scenes I just loved.

Less convincing, for me at least were the Four Horsepersons of the Apocalypse and the Them (Adam, Pepper, Wensleydale and Brian). In the novel they are such big characters I was underwhelmed, I think. But that’s the thing about adaptations, especially ones that haven’t been adapted for such a long time since they were released, that I have read over and over and over again until I know it off by heart, and whose characters I had such vivid images of, at least some aspects were always going to disappoint. It was the same with the Harry Potter series when they were turned into films – they would just never live up to the books (especially when the first few missed out bits that seemed insignificant but would prove to mean a lot more later on, but I digress).

As it was with the characters, so it was with the scenes. Some scenes were just spot on, like the opening scene with Crowley and Aziraphale at the gates of Eden, and when they fed the ducks (and again, this is what made these two characters work despite some different line readings – Serafinowicz and Heap had such chemistry). Once more, it was the Horsepersons’ scenes that underwhelmed, maybe because they varied from the book and I wanted everything to be the same, even though I knew it couldn’t be. The biggest disappointment for me though was the scene where Agnes was burnt – nothing about it worked for me, and I can’t quite place my finger on why. Again, it may simply be line readings, though I think the pacing was off too.

Despite my  rather wishy-washy attitude to the whole series, I enjoyed each episode and looked forward to the next one being released the next day. Honestly, it was never going to be able to live up to the book that I hold so dear, but I liked it anyway. If anyone wants to hear it, it will be on BBC iPlayer (available worldwide!) for the next 3 weeks.

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