Childhood Heroes

I have a soft spot for the fictional heroes of my childhood. The first has to be Robin Hood. I loved the old TV show with Richard Greene. I can still sing the theme song Robin Hood, Robin Hood riding through the glen. Robin Hood Robin Hood with his band of men. Feared by the bad, loved by the good. Robin Hood. Robin Hood, Robin Hood. Or at least that’s my memory of the lyrics. The characters in the show had such great names, too—Guy of Gisborne, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Will Scarlet, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Maid Marian. Such descriptive, enticing names. It made me fall in love with noble characters, history, right vs power, helping people, and outsmarting the bad guy. I was sad when I got older and found out Robin Hood probably never lived. I thought Sherlock Holmes was a real character, too, for a long time. When a character is that dimensional, they take on a life force and it’s hard to believe they never actually existed outside of the imagination. The second in my list of heroes is Zorro. He’s the California version of Robin Hood. I was born and lived in California until I was 12. The state has a rich history with the building of the missions, the fight for independence from Spain, the gold rush (yes, I know there was a lot horror involved in the treatment of the Native Americans, etc., but I was a kid. I only saw the romantic side of history.) California is also an incredibly beautiful state—the mountains, the desert, the redwoods, and above...

Falling in Love with a Character

I ordered this book through the library some time ago. I was pretty far back on the waiting list and by the time my name came up I had forgotten why I wanted to read it. I’m pretty sure I decided to read it based on a review, but I have been disappointed in the past when a book has had a good write-up. Consequently, I was a bit skeptical when I started it. Don Tillman is not your typical rom-com main character. He has issues. In particular he is obviously someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, though he doesn’t realize it, and is cringe-worthy in social situations. I read the first few pages with an Oh, my God! expression on my face. What a horror, I thought. How could someone with his issues find someone to love him? He began to win me over on page 10. He was in the middle of giving a lecture on Asperger’s syndrome (I think his friend set him up with the lecture in hopes he would recognize himself) and became horrified when someone explained to the kids in the audience that Asperger’s was something you were born with. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Don exclaims, “Fault! Asperger’s isn’t a fault. It’s a variant.”  He goes on to explain that it’s potentially a major advantage. He gives an example in which emotional behavior would lead to a disastrous outcome—Imagine you are hiding in the basement with your friends. The enemy is searching for you and you have to keep totally silent, but your baby is crying. You have a gun. The parents in the audience...

Bilbo vs Frodo

I have always preferred The Hobbit to The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Consequently, I’ve always preferred Bilbo to Frodo, but it is only recently that I’ve been able to figure out why this is so. I was watching the Hobbit on HBO, refreshing my memory in preparation for the next installment coming out soon, and one scene struck me as a pivotal moment for Bilbo. He’s invisible, having just escaped from Gollum and the goblins, and he overhears Thorin saying Biblo has probably deserted them and run back home—that’s why he’s missing. Bilbo could do that. He could leave at that point and go back home. He’s invisible and they would never see him. He knows Thorin has always doubted him. He’s no hero and he’s not a thief. He feels out of place and floundering. The dwarves are so strong and good at what they do and Bilbo feels like all he knows how to do is live a quiet life and tend his garden. But it’s at that point that he choses fully to commit to the quest. When he first decided to join them it was more from a sense of adventure and fun. But this time he truly wants to help them. He takes off the ring and reveals himself. When asked why he hadn’t left he tells Thorin that he’s right. He misses his home. He misses his books and his garden. That’s where he belongs. And that’s why he had to come back. They (the dwarves) don’t have a home. Someone took it from them. But he will help them take it...

Much Ado is Mucho Amazing

I saw Joss Whedon’s “Much Ado About Nothing” over the weekend. It’s one of my favorite plays by Shakespeare so I was really looking forward to it. I was not disappointed. I’m a big fan of Kenneth Branagh’s version that came out in 1993 and Joss Whedon’s movie is just as good. I love the choices Whedon made. In fact, he blew my mind when he cast Conrade as a female role. The conversation between Don John and Conrade is done as foreplay and I couldn’t believe how sexual the language was in that situation. It was perfect, yet it never occurred to me how sexual it was when the scene was between two men. My mind exploded and it made me look at everything with a fresh eye. My favorite scenes where when Benedict and Beatrice overheard the staged conversations where their friends spoke of how they were dying of love for one another. Beatrice, in particular, had me almost on the floor. Her perfect comedic timing and antics were a delight to watch. Benendict, too, did so much with his body language that he didn’t need to say anything. The other change that makes this version rise a tad above Branagh’s for me was a tweak to Claudio’s character. It has always bothered me that Claudio could dismiss Hero’s death so easily because he thought her sullied. Then, when he finds out he was wrong, his sudden repentance never seemed sincere to me. Yes, I know I’m bringing a modern view of virginity and applying it to a 16th century culture, however, if you love someone one...

Too Complicated?

I saw the animated film “Epic” last Friday. The one review I saw said it was a bit complicated. Sometimes I wonder if I see the same movie as critics. The plot wasn’t complicated. In fact it was pretty straightforward. It had some depth and character growth and maybe that was the problem for the reviewer. It wasn’t shallow, one-dimensional. The characters were fun and the artwork was AMAZING. See it in 3-D. It’s an experience. I thank God that the computer is now a tool for the animator/artist. It allows the filmmakers to create scenes that couldn’t be done with hand animation. The drama created by the way the camera moves through a scene is all thanks to the computer. Plus the ability to create multiple crowd scene images also depends on the computer. The “complication” the computer allows the director to add to those scenes multiplies the emotion created by the images. I wonder if reviewers think a children’s movie has to be simple for the audience? They couldn’t be more wrong. Simple movies don’t become classics. Simple movies that lack dimensional characters and plots that matter to the characters, aren’t memorable. Epic is memorable because it offers emotional depth, characters you understand and empathize with, and imagery that takes your breath away. Go see...

Making it Easy for the Villian

I recently read Temple of a Thousand Faces. I really enjoyed the setting of Angkor Wat and the culture. The story takes place about a thousand years ago and is based on historical figures and events. The king of the Khmers narrowly escapes death by the conquering Cham king. The story follows four different sets of characters as the Khmer king rallies his people and plans a counterattack to retake his throne. I liked all the different characters and their stories, I liked learning about their beliefs, but ultimately, what made me lose interest was the fact that about 2/3rds to 3/4ths of the way into the book it started to bug me that things were just too easy for the villains. Everything fell their way and I realized that even though that made the villains a powerful threat to the protagonists, because the breaks all fell their way, it felt manipulative. Not much is known about what really happened all those years ago beyond that fact that the Cham king invaded and the Khmer king ultimately defeated him. Therefore, all the breaks happening for the villains in the novel were author manipulation. The villain needs to struggle a bit, too, not just the hero. Everything can’t go their way. When it does it makes the villain unrealistic. You want a proactive, smart villain, but at the same time, they can’t be a super-villain who wins every round. If they do, they become cardboard—a bwa-ha-ha villain. The Cham king wasn’t quite that bad but he did get all the breaks until the end. Villains needs to be strong, proactive,...