V for Vendetta Bleeds Orwellian Dystopia

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James McTeigue directs what I would suggest is a powerful re-imagining of George Orwell’s (Eric Blair’s) 1984. Many of us had the pleasure of reading the novel and all its eerie glory in high school. Portentous and incredibly disturbing, it serves as a warning for all future generations to avoid falling into the void of complacency when it comes to government. When a government fails to represent the interests of its people, its legitimacy vanishes. It seems to me a vicious cycle when a coups d’etat only leads to the establishment of a centralized government where one individual has supreme power. Won’t this inevitably lead to future uprisings? This is why V says governments should be afraid of their people, not the other way around. This all smacks of Marx, yet it was he who said, “they cannot represent themselves, they must be represented. Their representative must at the same time appear as their master…” in 1852 regarding the French peasantry living under Bonaparte’s reign. Though it is agreed that these people were marginalized and lacked the resources to make their voices heard, it seems presumptuous at the least, despotic at worst, to appoint ourselves as their “betters,” capable of ruling over them benignly and without a shred of self-interest. A recipe for continued disaster, I’d say.
The movie evokes the descent into complete helplessness that 1984 builds, though ending on a hopeful note. The setting and backstory for the movie are dead-on to the book, though the plot and characters are fundamentally different. The populace in the movie are living, breathing drones, resigned to their fate. But with his devilish charisma, V invites them to simply “look into the mirror” when looking for someone to blame. The bystanders are far more dangerous than the villains, because they can do something, but choose not to. It is far easier to sit back and accept your fate as someone else writes it, than to rise up and reclaim your life.
The performances are also spectacular, with Hugo Weaving giving the man behind the mask real substance. His voice captivates your senses. Natalie Portman (whom I love–if only because she studied Psychology at Harvard–oh and she’s an awesome actress to boot) took my body and mind into hers as she lived through the fear, the torture, and the re-birth. In the novel, Winston does not experience a rebirth after the suffering. They take his humanity from him, whereas Evey reclaims hers. It is one of the most tragic endings I’ve ever read, and it doesn’t even involve his death. Indeed, some things are far worse than death.
As with all good movies (and books), this is one where you will discover a number of hidden nuances each time you watch it.

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The Great Gatsby: Baz Luhrmann Style

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We went to see the movie when it opened, and of course, I have an opinion. Before I get into the nuts and bolts, I must applaud the marketing department because it was phenomenally promoted on all fronts.
Some detractions: I thought the movie should have included some other pivotal moments from the text, like when Nick sees the Buchanans coming back from their travels, blithe and oblivious to anyone’s woes. I think that scene is important for character development because Nick refuses to shake Tom’s hand, and makes the determination that they are careless people. Plus, the last scenes where he equates the scope of Gatsby’s hope with that of the first European settlers who beheld that “fresh green breast” as ripe for the taking, were also omitted. Granted though, the film was lengthy enough as it was. In terms of musical score, I’ll admit, (rather shamefully because I know it’s probably silliness on my part) that some scenes were a bit anti-climactic because they didn’t have the same songs as the trailer so proudly announced. (Yes, I was a Gatsby trailer junkie for the last several months). Maybe that’s a good thing? I don’t know. But really, is it so wrong I wanted to hear Filter’s “Happy Together” as Gatsby and Daisy reunited? The power of anticipation is outstanding. Anyway!
Attractions: Acting. Though admittedly, I know nothing of it, I thought Carrie Mulligan was a convincing (and dare I say it, like-able) Daisy, sans Mia Farrow’s dramatic flair but that’s not a bad thing in my book. She had a more subdued air to her, but still captured the character’s beguiling power. Tobey Maguire was great too. Leonardo DiCaprio (bells and whistles please!) was amazing (did we expect anything less?). There was a raw vulnerability beneath the layers of carefully crafted success story, and his performance made them all come apart for us. That scene at the hotel, when he unraveled, not so much at the revelation, but at Daisy’s cowering reaction, was practically charged with electricity. Awesome, awesome, awesome.
I did also enjoy Luhrmann’s creative license in basically Baker-acting Nick; that was an interesting twist, and oddly fitting with the downwards spiral the country went into when the stock market crashed in 1929; the end of an era, so to speak. The writing on the screen as he developed the ending was gorgeous (if they did it for the last installment of Twilight, then I would have killed somebody if they didn’t do it for Fitzgerald’s masterpiece!). The ending of the novel is nothing short of epic, extending Gatsby’s capacity for hope and wonder to all of humanity, saying we struggle against adversity, hoping that “one fine morning…”

God I love this book. Can you tell? 😉

If anyone has read Tender is the Night, do share your thoughts. Is it anywhere near as awesome as The Great Gatsby?

Kurt Vonnegut: Master of Pith

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I just had to share this, since Vonnegut has become a new favorite the moment I finished Cat’s Cradle. Sorry to be bossy but…Go read it. Now. 😉

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Rules of Writing:

Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
Give the reader at least one character he or she can root for.
Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
Every sentence must do one of two things — reveal character or advance the action.
Start as close to the end as possible.
Be a sadist. Now matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them — in order that the reader may see what they are made of.
Write to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get pneumonia.
Give your readers as much information as possible as soon as possible. To heck with suspense. Readers should have such complete understanding of what is going on, where and why, that they could finish the story themselves, should cockroaches eat the last few pages.

Genius. Who needs more than this?
As I said, he is the master of pith.

Some choice quotes from CC:

Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists… It is knowing what your limitations are. Page 115 (iPad)

I agree with one bokoninist idea. I agree that all religions, including bokononism, are nothing but lies. Page 127

“She hated people who thought too much. At that moment, she struck me as an appropriate representative for almost all mankind.” (22)

Second one is like brain food for the agnostic. Or the nihilistic. Fitting for the rest of the narrative, actually.

Doesn’t the last one remind you of someone in your life? Co-worker, in-law, hell, even a spouse?

This guy is so kick-ass I’m going to sit down with Slaughterhouse Five. And that’s saying a lot, since war narratives make me want to puke. Spectacularly.