Thor: Ragnarok – First Impressions

Hello, everyone!

I hope you are all enjoying your time as the days get shorter (or longer), and darkness envelops you at 4 o’clock rather than 10, or perhaps the inversion of this. Regardless of your whereabouts, I know Thor: Ragnarok (which I will refer to as ‘Ragnarok‘ throughout this post) came out a week and a half ago. I was in no rush to see it, but a plethora of good reviews gave it a very high percentage on Rotten Tomatoes, which caught me off-guard. Curiosity is great, and I was waiting to be surprised. This collection of impressions comes a few hours after my viewing of the film, so please forgive any opinions that may seem undercooked.

I have a few things to say, but here is the verdict if you want me to get to the point: the movie is entertaining, and a lot of fun. I know that concerning this movie, ‘fun’ is a buzzword you have heard countless times if you watch or read reviews as I do. However, that is the best way to describe it. There is a lot to be enjoyed in this film, with action and intensity being its strong suit. There are some issues, but this film is quite easily the best Thor film. Best in the MCU… perhaps entertainment-wise, but I would rank some other films above this one.

thor_ragnarok

Time for some background details. This was a movie I was both excited and worried for. Marvel’s previous two Thor movies are merely okay in my eyes (I prefer Thor to The Dark World), and it has been a while since their releases. However, Marvel’s recent track record has been fantastic, even if some of their more recent films have their own issues that make them great instead of amazing. As a result, I was cautiously optimistic for Ragnarok, and I can say that has paid off.

Compared to the other two Marvel films this year, I can say that Ragnarok is easily my favourite (with the other two being good films, of course). Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was overly predictable and had some extraneous elements, as well as a pace-killing and unfortunate sequence that was just expository. Spider-Man: Homecoming had substantial tonal discrepancies with humour and drama, but I cannot say that brought the movie down as much as it could have. Ragnorak blends humour and drama organically, and it isn’t afraid to take a few risks either.

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This film sheds away what didn’t work in the previous two Thor films, with the Earth-based characters being completely absent sans one reference. The focus is entirely centered around Thor and his quest to stop Hela and doesn’t stop to dillydally too often. The pacing here does start off a bit slower on the film’s onset, but this is done to give breathing room that the film needed.

Being so long since The Dark World (four years), Ragnarok feels more akin to a stand-alone story instead of the third part of a trilogy. This is due in part to the material this film sheds, but also to what it adds. This commences an awkward segue to where I talk about characters. Thor and Loki are both as great as ever in this film, but so are the new and returning characters as well. I am unsure if it could be considered a spoiler, but there is one cameo towards the beginning that was nice. Seeing Hulk and newcomer Valkyrie also provide a bolder flavour that the last two films lacked, with this film being a colourful collage of gritty sci-fi elements in harmony with the more pristine fantasy side of Asgard. Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster was unexpectedly hilarious, and Cate Blanchett’s Hela was a more smug villain that may not break the trend of un-amazing villain’s in the MCU, but she is delightful nonetheless.

Visually and musically, this film shines as well. The garbage planet of Sakaar is colourful in a trashy kind of way and feels like a more rugged and ‘exotic’ approach to Guardians of the Galaxy’s sci-fi extravaganza. The soundtrack was also unique in that it had a signature ‘1980’s’ vibe to it, which gave off character even if it did not necessarily fit in (at all, actually). Of course, Ragnarok is filled with CGI, but none if it looked out of place or ‘bad’ to me. Action sequences are also plenty here, with fights having splendid choreography that have weight to them. There is no shortage of it, and all of it is what made the film so ‘fun.’

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The only people I cannot recommend this film to are those that are looking for something fresh in the MCU. Ragnarok feels like a standalone Thor movie with dashes of Guardians of the Galaxy in it. The film is very well done, but it did not ‘wow’ me, despite my praises and lack of significant criticism. I walked out of the theatre feeling satisfied, especially with my cautious optimism paying off in the end. The film also does connect with Avengers: Infinity War, although this film felt like it told a well-crafted story that didn’t exist to set up future films (*cough* Age of Ultron).

In two words, see it! Have fun! Thor’s cool! I know I did not talk a lot about the story, but the premise of ‘Thor must stop Hela from causing destruction’ is nothing to talk of. It works for this film, and it’s other elements (action, humour, characters) matter more anyway.

Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this look at Thor: Ragnarok. I look forward to Black Panther this February, but before that, there’s one film that will definitely be getting a proper look at when the time comes around…

Until then, I will most likely see you again when my monthly impressions post (which will be lighter than October’s) is published at the end of the month! 🙂

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The Review Roundup – October 2017

As per my last post, I have kept my promise of having this ‘impressions roundup’ at the end of this month. I am aware that the title says otherwise, but I appreciate alliteration. 🙂

Anyways, welcome back! With this being my first year in university, I don’t think I should be surprised at the heap of literature that currently clutters my desk. The bi-daily posts earlier this month was likely an indicator to that, but you may be surprised to discover that my readings had actually slowed down following my look at Look Back in Anger and The Prisoner of Zenda. There is still much to get through, but I will promise that each piece I look at will not take up an enormous span of your time.

Here’s how this is going to work: as with the last few impressions, I will list some overall opinions on each piece, trying to give some positives and negatives as well. While virtually the same as my last several posts, this format will be briefer. I also will be covering the pieces from said posts, but do not worry. I hate to leave out suspense, but for your pleasure, I will give a list before I delve into the meat of this roundup. Matter of fact, here it is!

  • Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden (novel)
  • The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan (novella)
  • Blade Runner 2049 (film)
  • Burmese Days by George Orwell (novel)
  • The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope (novella)
  • Look Back in Anger by John Osborne (play)
  • The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter (play)
  • Top Girls by Caryl Churchill (play)
  • It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis (novel)

Before I begin with this list, you can probably see the lopsided nature of its composition. There’s only one film here, and the backend of this list is heavy with plays. I should also add that there can and will be a variety of other pieces from different mediums; I just didn’t happen to play any new video games this month or watch any television either… Not that I even watch television.

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Some context: I had to pick out a book for a novel study in my Canadian History class and this one had a premise that seemed interesting enough. It is a sniper story between two Indigenous brothers during WWI and Goodreads was giving me good vibes. (Pro-Tip: never gauge an opinion off of Goodreads. Beowulf is not bad because you forced yourself to read it in high school.)

Now, I should start off by saying that this novel is enthralling. It will make you uncomfortable at how raw and blunt its language is; it will make you see the ugly side of strained relationships and the downfall of character. I should make it clear that this novel did not feel biased on my reading, so the reasons for the above points are due to how strong this novel’s narrative is. The lack of fear in this novel’s writing is easily its strongest feature and one that made me stop reading momentarily in partial disgust. The main characters are also well-realized, each serving their role and not entirely reflecting the viewpoint the reader may find themselves in.

If you are looking for an academic read, Three Day Road is not a novel for you. Simply put, this novel is for the experience and excitement of reading. Its plot may also feel cyclical at times, but this is a minor gripe in comparison with the other storytelling elements that will grasp your attention instead. The first-person recollective narrative may also throw some off, but that comes down to preference in the end.

An article on Joseph Boyden by Historica Canada can be found here.

The Thirty-Nine Steps by John Buchan

The original impression post can be found here.

My opinion on The Thirty-Nine Steps has not changed much since my initial reading. The spy-thriller on the doorsteps of WWI is a story that will keep you entertained through its fast-paced plot. There is a sense of adventure in this novella, with much of it coming through its protagonist and the adverse situations he faces. There are curveballs thrown around every corner, which kept me reading until to the end.

However, the limiting factor of this novella is its status as a pioneer of the spy thriller genre. Depending on your exposure to it, this story may seem rather bare, becoming a slog to get through as a result. More importantly are the characters, which do not serve to amend this issue. They are not easily attachable, and character development is nonexistent. This may sever a reader’s connection, especially if one’s goal in reading is to be invested in a story.

An article on John Buchan by Historica Canada can be found here.

Blade Runner 2049

The original impression post can be found here.

What a phenomenal film. I know my post on it was complete gushing, but intellectual sci-fi is awesome. Blade Runner 2049 is for people who loved the original film for its look at humanity. It’s for those who want a sequel that respects the original film and builds off of it logically. This film is aesthetically pleasing, boasting hauntingly beautiful visuals and a moody score.

Some issues one may have with this film is its runtime. Three hours for a film that isn’t fast-paced could kill one’s enjoyment of this film, but expectation could be the other killer. This film is not action-driven, not even to the extent of the original film. This film also requires your attention, as it does not hold your hand through exposition. By and large, whether this film surpasses the original is all up to the viewer.

A website for the movie can be found here.

Burmese Days by George Orwell

The original impression post can be found here.

As this novel is based on Orwell’s experiences in the British Raj, Burmese Days can be called personal in its depiction of Imperial Burma. The smaller viewpoint of one man gives this novel a unique perspective and one that isn’t afraid to incite controversy with its reader. The protagonist grounds this novel in a degree of sympathy, yet makes it very despicable at the same time.

Criticisms may be leveled at this novel’s repetition in its theme and character exploration, but this may have been done intentionally. The lives of these British colonists are dull, and for some stretches, the novel shifts focus away from its [more] sympathetic protagonist to other characters, which can cause pacing to be uneven at times. Going in with the impression that this novel is another 1984 can also be detrimental to your enjoyment of it, but note that this novel does have quite a few parallels to Orwell’s later work that should be quite apparent.

A biography on George Orwell by the BBC can be found here.

The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope

The original impression post can be found here.

This Ruritanian romance of swashbuckling adventure and identity changes is an enjoyable and highly entertaining tale, just as it was when I initially read it. The Prisoner of Zenda is unique in that it feels like a fairy tale told as in an adult novella, with murder and politics involved in its plotline of high romantics. As with The Thirty-Nine Steps, this novella is a quick read, and its events take place at a quickened pace that will be likely to keep you interested to the end.

However, in another vein that is similar to The Thirty-Nine Steps, this novella is a pioneer for the Ruritanian romance genre. If you have read plenty of novel’s with high romance with identity changes and royalty, this novella may appear as a drag. This is not helped in part by the frontloaded plot here, where exposition establishes characters and setting before letting them loose for your reading pleasures. To add to that, the characters present are fleshed out, but not much is in the way of drama or development, despite the implications that these characters grow and bond through the various situations contained in this novella’s pages.

As much as I would love to provide a link to a more ‘official’ website, there isn’t much in the way of Hope. Instead, a biography on Anthony Hope by Encyclopædia Britannica can be found here.

Look Back in Anger by John Osborne

The original impression post can be found here.

If investigating social issues during the twentieth century (that are still relevant today) is your forte, Look Back in Anger is a play that will intrigue you. It is intentionally provocative, calling feminism, nostalgia, and education into question in the post-WWII era in Britain. This play defied British theatre in its realism, showing characters who are not romanticized and characters who are all flawed.

If you like plays for wit or escapism, Look Back in Anger may not be what you’re looking for. You will see the aforementioned social issues on center-stage, and they will make you uncomfortable and may even give off a sense of deep controversy and anger. Whether or not the play will do this or even fascinate you is entirely dependant on why you read or watch plays, so keep that in mind if you decide to explore the issues that theatre can brilliantly present.

As much as I would love to provide a link to a more ‘official’ website, there isn’t much in the way of Osborne. Instead, a biography on John Osborne by Encyclopædia Britannica can be found here.

The Birthday Party by Harold Pinter

If Look Back in Anger sounds deadpan on its themes, it may be reassuring to know that The Birthday Party is instead more about the experience of theatre rather than the issues it brings up. This play is not violent or grotesque in a sense, but it is terrifying. Important character motivations and backstories are hidden behind subtle hints and potentially fabricated truths, making this play a story that leads itself into unexpected turns. Pinter’s story is rather straightforward at the same time, with fewer characters giving a more surreal and claustrophobic atmosphere.

If I am to be as honest as possible, I can say that this play did not leave as large of an impact as I thought it would have. I am sure I have missed something, but its themes of truth, nostalgia, and sex are very relevant to its pages, but not on a larger scale that adresses society as Look Back in Anger had done. This play may also confuse you if you like your stories to be more concrete, but there is enough implied to potentially fill in the blanks.

Harold Pinter’s website can be found here.

Top Girls by Caryl Churchill

Yet another play, Top Girls is one that I think one will either love or put down. This play explores feminism in a uniquely unique way (yes), with its first acts being one of the most cohesive ways to explore the history of women [while also intentionally breaking immersion]. I will not spoil it here but know that so much is compared and contrasted in terms of history, and its beautifully done. The play is also no stranger to being provocative, giving off an almost eerie and surreal vibe in its second and third act as characters leave darker implications that do not sugarcoat feminism. This is done with themes of maturity, hate, and possible murder giving this play a flavour of discomfort that goes beyond the surface level.

If you like your stories to not surprise you in ways that will make you uncomfortable, I do not recommend reading this play. I can now see why high school teachers only teach Shakespeare, as this play is beautiful and haunting at the same time. It is certainly heavier than Look Back in Anger, even daring to excessively swear and disturb you with grotesque imagery. If you also like stories to wrap up nicely at the end, Top Girls is rather open-ended in both plot and in answering the questions it poses on feminism. This is due to the plot not being told in a linear fashion, which may end up disappointing you.

I should say that this play is one I really liked, and out of all three plays above, I would reccomend reading this one above all. It is facinating, and not very long either.

Caryl Churchill can be found on the British Council’s Literature website here.

It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

Hey, a dystopian novel!

It Can’t Happen Here is a novel that aims to address its own title. The idea of fascism in the United States during the Great Depression: certainly, it can’t happen here? I will not go into that topic, but the regime this novel presents is very clearly and vividly realized. If you were ever curious to how an American-specific regime would function and affect its citizens, this novel does not disappoint. All the technicalities are accounted for, making the dystopian part of this novel work brilliantly and even being contemporary in some manners.

I know this novel is liked by many and spiked in sales recently, but I do have one gripe with it: I found it dull. The novel’s ultimate falling is its narrative, with characters that muddle together, and an everyman protagonist that serves his purpose and nothing more. The plot is also filled with rugged pacing that is very slow to begin with, and is uneven by the end. The lack of a dramatic arc made it hard to be invested in this novel, although this improves in its second half as the brutality of the government becomes more apparent and fully realized. The writing is also dry, making this novel feel more technical than it should be with the exception of a few odd chapters, that almost make this novel feel very inconsistent, but not quite so.

An article on Sinclair Lewis by the website of the Nobel Prize can be found here.

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I hope you enjoyed this post, and I hope I did not anger any of you if I expressed too much negativity at any one piece. There was a lot to cover for this month, but I can guarantee that the next one will be a little lighter. If you have not heard of many of these pieces, I recommend experimenting with them. I had no idea I would enjoy a play on feminism as much as I did, or that I would find an American dystopian novel to be dull.

If I am to give an update on how my university experience is going so far, I will say that it is going steadily so far. In particular, I am enjoying my International Studies class, where we look at the world through the scope of geography, history, anthropology/culture, economics, and political science. I am very much looking forward to learning and reading much more, and I will be sure to make another life post like the one I did about my experience in the Air Cadet program on my entire first year when that comes around.

As always, keep reading, watching, and playing! You never know what you’ll like, and experience isn’t to be spent on a rail. 🙂

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The Prisoner of Zenda / Look Back in Anger – Impressions

Hey, all!

Now, I was expecting to have this post out earlier this week, and you are likely aware that this is going to be double-dipped by the title. Truth be told, I was unsure if I wanted to make this post, but I am going to be a man of my word on this blog for once. There is no direct correlation between these two works, as one is a novella, while the other is a play.

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The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope is a “swashbuckling” adventure-romance novella taking place in the fictional state of Ruritania, where protagonist Rudolf Rassendyll is forced by unforeseen circumstances to play the nation’s king. This is due to his nearly identical appearance to the king, which forces Rudolf into a complicated plot involving the capture of the true king.

Outside of the word “swashbuckling” sticking out, The Prisoner of Zenda was interesting on a conceptual level: it had the rough plotline of a children’s novel/fairy tale but told in the manner of an adult novella. There is a lot on the table here: a star-crossed romance, political espionage, and the all-important question of who is worthy to lead. As with The Thirty-Nine Steps, this novella is mostly valuable depending on its novelty to its reader. The entertaining premise has been done many other times, and what drives the plot is the central conflict between the king and his conspirators. There is value to be found in its pioneering of the ‘Ruritanian romance‘ genre, but how much substance exists is entirely dependent on the reader.

The pacing of the novella is rather frontloaded, as the introductory chapters take more time to establish various characters and the setting before jumping into the action, which carries the rest of the plot. There is no significant time devoted to making characters undergo significant development or even giving them any depth, but they feel unique in that they are fairy tale characters under a realistic light. This works well in conjunction with the themes of leadership and duty.

There is not too much else to say, I am afraid. However much mileage you get out of this novella depends on your exposure to this sort of plot, and how strong your craving for characters that have to be three-dimensional is.

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Look Back in Anger by John Osborne is an ‘Angry Young Men’ play that deals with the couple of Jimmy and Alison Porter as they deal with their personal issues that impede their relationships with others as well as between the two. Before I continue, I would like to elaborate that feminism is a huge aspect of this play. This play was controversial upon its first performance in 1956 (also in which the play takes place) for its harsh and realistic tone, and there is no doubt it may spark some today. The characters are the epicentre of all that happens here, and they are provocative quite a bit of the time.

Jimmy lacks decency for all around him, including his wife Alison and friend Cliff (who lives with them). His character is sometimes painted in a sympathetic light, being portrayed as a sophisticated man in the working-class, clearly being outside of his time period. On the other hand, Alison hails from the upper-class, but she is ultimately neutral-minded when it comes between her love for Jimmy and tiredness of his vitriol behavior. Describing these characters is the best indicator to how the kitchen sink drama unfolds between these two, which brings the questions of not only feminism, but also nostalgia, education, and love into question as they are examined in a post-WWII fashion. Their portrayals are interesting, and exploring them in depth is central to this play.

While I found this read to be interesting, the forte of plays that I adore have a great semblance of wit, which is absent here. Look Back in Anger is not lacking in any heart, (there is still some notable instances of it, in fact) but know that one will likely either be taken aback by this play or find it fascinating (if I may make some generalizations). It is a play cemented in its time-period, but it still proves to be an interesting reflection. Its shorter length may make it a quicker read, but the heavy subject matter is unavoidable. Perhaps it is appropriate within the context of facing societal issues, but know that this is not a play that exists to entertain one.

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I apologize for the shorter-lengthed impressions for today. To be frank, I now feel as if cluttering this blog with bi-daily posts on older pieces feels counter-productive to both myself and the kind of content I ultimately wish to make on the blog but know that I am not cutting the axe on these posts so soon after their debut. Instead, I have a more substantial idea to adapt them to a format that is more friendly to myself and this blog. Consider these last few posts an experiment, as I now want to tentatively declare that at the end of each month, I will be giving an ‘impressions roundup,’ instead of littering many of these throughout the month to clog up the blog. Of course, there will be exceptions if I find something that I think is phenomenal, (like Blade Runner 2049) but don’t expect that to happen too often.

Anyways, enjoy your day. I know I’ll be getting some sleep now. 🙂

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Blade Runner 2049 – Impressions

This is a post I should have completed three days ago when I saw this movie, but this is one I had to process before giving it a post that it deserves. Also, I would recommend you to stop reading if you intend to see the film. I do not plan on spoiling anything, but please, see it before you read this.  After all, opinions do sway people regardless of spoilers.

Every once in a while, I find myself losing faith in art. There are many cases of creators pandering to what audiences will easily consume, or in simplified terms, they play it safe. Sequel after prequel after midquel to go through, which are all like giving different names to the same shade of brown. It is ironic that I bring this point up, looking at how Blade Runner 2049 is a sequel to a movie that was perfectly fine without one.

Before I actually touch on this movie, I want to bring up a point that every sequel to a self-contained story needs to have a reason for existing. Was Independence Day: Resurgence more than a cash-grab on nostalgia? Yes. Dare I even say that Finding Dory is a film that strikes similar chords to its predecessor enough to make me raise an eyebrow.  This is different from The Lord of the Rings, as that is a single story separated into three parts. This is different from Star Wars: A New Hope, as that is a foundation for a larger world, and therefore birthing in a storyline to expand off of it.

This is perhaps Blade Runner 2049’s greatest success. It manages to act as a faithful sequel to the original while keeping to its own story. It respects fans of the original film, which is not bogged down making it worse in retrospect.

The question is, does it exist outside of the cult classic’s shadow?blade4

I think this film will be hit-and-miss for many. I know my last few retrospects have stated the same principle, but I want to especially emphasize that point here. If you are looking for action or a narrative that won’t require your full attention, this movie will leave you disappointed. This is true to an extent for the original film, but it is more apparent here in part of its runtime. I will agree that this film does not need to be nearly as long as it is, although I do appreciate the slow-burn approach to its pacing.

Like the original, (if you watch the version Ridley Scott intended the movie to be) Blade Runner 2049 does not go out of its way to world-build. There is more of it here compared to the original, but it is contained within the background of the film and is never pressing. This builds the immersion of this film, which let me say is fantastic. The gloomy-yet-vivid colour pallet combined with the minimalist noir score (although less jazzy this time around) creates a breathtaking atmosphere that tells its own story. For many, this will likely be the most striking part of the film.

Acting in Blade Runner 2049 is noteworthy as well. Ryan Gosling does a stellar job as the emotionless(?) K, which reflects this film’s theme of humanity that naturally stems and evolves from the first film. One part in particular that I liked was his relationship with Ana de Armas’ Joi and Harrison Ford’s Dekkard. Now, Harrison Ford. I do not feel alone in stating that a lot of his recent roles feel phoned in, almost as if he feels obliged to play the roles that he is in. Yes, even Han Solo in The Force Awakens and especially Indiana Jones in Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. You may expect this returning role to follow the same suit, but Harrison Ford gave a heartfelt performance that is both respectful to the character and so much more… That I cannot spoil.

While Blade Runner 2049’s plot feels told with an immense degree of subtlety, it is rather straightforward if one pays attention. The runtime may be unnecessarily long, but this film is oozing with artistic magnificence in its purest form. It lives up to the original and stands beside it without a doubt. I am hesitant to say that it can stand on its own away from the original, but time will give a better indication towards that. If you want to know why science-fiction can be such a deep, relevant, and grandiose genre beyond wacky science and lasers (sorry, Star Wars) watch this film. You will not regret it unless you expect casual entertainment or action.

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Also, as an aside: I hate to say it, but this film did not have a ‘tears in rain’ moment for me. That is still one of the most hauntingly beautiful things I have ever witnessed in any story.

I hope you enjoyed this look at the movie! This definitely felt more like a shorter review than a simple impression, but I feel as if this film (as well as the original) is one that I can come back to in the future and dissect. I would also expect another two impression posts this week for a novella and a play. Without any further rambling, have a great day/night! 🙂

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Burmese Days – Impressions

If you read books, I am going to assume that you are at least somewhat familiar with George Orwell’s 1984. If not, you more than likely need to read more. Just earlier today I finished my read of Burmese Days, which is based on Orwell’s experience as a part of the British Raj during the interwar period of the twentieth century. If history does not concern you, then do not worry; Burmese Days is fictionalized and exists firstly as a novel, being Orwell’s first. As someone who adores 1984, how does this earlier work stand up?

It should be apparent that I had just set up this post as a comparison, but I believe that to be fair and of course, I will get it out of the way. Upon inspection of Orwell’s larger bibliography, one can gain the sense that all of his novels serve as stepping stones that culminate in 1984. Throughout Burmese Days, I picked up on lots of parallels between the two novels, but for the sake of spoilers, I will not mention them. This ‘stepping stones’ mentality is important to keep in mind because this novel’s best aspects were enhanced for 1984.

(Disclaimer: Do not look at historical novels with modern morality. If you do, you will likely miss the point of them and end up hating everyone older than a hundred years old.)

As a character-driven story, Burmese Days presents the waning days of imperialism through its characters rather than any larger-than-life politics or skirmishes. I found protagonist John Flory to be compelling as he is a reflection of the novel’s setting: he is a stranger in a foreign land, and his plight almost seems tragic. However, Flory is an imperfect character who would show mercy to the Burmese populace while treating them as fascinating ‘aliens,’ which is just a tad more realistic than being the black sheep who is different in every conceivable way. He is a sympathetic character that is surrounded by characters who he perceives in very different ways than from how the audience does, which gives this novel life and propels its presentation of imperialism to be fascinating.

What will kill the novel for some is its repetition and lack of variety in its plot structure. Burmese Days is as focused as it is small in scale; many characters appear sporadically, with major time devoted to Flory and his relationship with a newcomer leading to a major plot-point being pushed in the back of the character’s minds. This is even true with Flory’s role in the novel at some points, where he is absent for noticeable stretches. This criticism may make it seem as if my point on repetition is mute, but the novel does not present these characters in a manner that is vastly different with or without Flory. The overall theme of how British imperialism was a dark thing for the lands under their subjugation is also a meaty one, but it is quickly established without much in the way of profound exploration, which correlates to character exploration as well.

I also cannot dig into the ending, but it was abrupt and almost felt forced for the novel to end the way it did.

Despite my ‘hefty’ criticisms that seem to blanket Burmese Days, I can safely assume that Orwell made these decisions consciously for the novel and they can easily be seen as non-issues. They make sense within the context of the plot, but for some, they will make it somewhat cluttered. However, Orwell’s writing style is prevalent throughout the novel, as well as his slow-burn approach to building a darker world. The pacing of scenes and plot-points is also very fluid, which made Burmese Days a comfortable read that was interesting from a historical and narrative point of view. If you are looking for something 1984-esque with a dash of history, this novel should be perfect for you. Just do not keep your expectations unreasonably high if you have read Orwell’s magnum opus.

Also, stay tuned for another impression post very soon. Let’s just say that I am ecstatic to talk about a certain movie… 🙂

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The Thirty-Nine Steps – First Impressions

Hello all, and welcome back!

Before I even delve into today’s subject matter, I would like to address the question of why there is a new post so soon. Now, the title of this blog most likely gave you a good idea of what you’re in for, but let me elaborate what this post means for this blog.

Due to my limited posting schedule this year in conjunction with my university lifestyle (Which will most likely escalate when I have to do that eight-page paper…), I have two choices: make blog posts once every few months and leave you all in the dust, or try out something a little more manageable. As I am focusing my studies on English, that means I’m going to read a lot. I am a fairly slow reader, as I like my novels to last me well into a month. However, at my current pace, I have read three plays, three novels, and one epic (and I’m currently reading two more novels) as of yet, so I had an idea. For every novel/movie/television series/video game/play/whatever I experience, I am going to write a quick pseudo-review/first impression post on it.

Here is how that will work: I will give a spoiler-free(ish) overview on my overall impression of the piece, as well as a brief run-through of what I both liked and disliked. I will then sum things up, and be off with it. These posts will be very short, and as with every review, this is my opinion. I feel as if that should be obvious, but I wanted to have that disclaimer regardless. You can feel free to debate my opinions in the comments, as I love to hear other points of view! I should also add that if my opinion changes over time, I will come back and update the post. Don’t worry about having to always check; I will point out any changes to previous posts in future ones.

Anyways, that’s the game plan. Let’s get started.

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The Thirty-Nine Steps (by John Buchan) is a spy thriller novella that concerns itself with protagonist Richard Hannay as he is pulled into a dire situation, coming to gain the knowledge of a political assassination involving a Greek official. He puts on a game of cat-and-mouse with the British police for a murder he did not commit, as well as a mysterious organization that seeks to invoke a grand scheme that has the potential to change European history.

One interesting part of this novella is that it pioneered the spy thriller genre, which may be what makes-or-breaks it. If you have read plenty of other novels of the type, The Thirty-Nine Steps may prove to be excruciatingly simple in comparison and a slog to get through as a result. One reason as to why is the characters. If you wish to experience the thrill of emotional and deeply-characterized personas through tense situations, you will inevitably be disappointed. Every character here serves the plot and does not go through any significant development including the protagonist. Richard Hannay’s exploits are nothing to be attached to, as there is no emotional investment that is directed towards his goals and endangered position.

To me, this slight criticism comes from my point of view that emotional storytelling is key in telling a character-driven narrative. However, I almost feel as if it did not matter in comparison to the entertainment value of the novella. The narrative of The Thirty-Nine Steps is straightforward and simplistic, and the mystery unfolds at a comfortable pace. Each step of the journey is filled with quirky character interactions that do not overstay their welcome, being paced quickly without losing footing. The novella did not feel as if a stupendous amount was omitted to fit a certain word count or too barebones either for that matter. Action drives the brisk plot as well, meaning that at no point did I feel bored as I experienced Hannay’s plight through England and Scotland.

The Thirty-Nine Steps was an enjoyable read, but I am aware that it is not for everyone. If one seeks a short weekend/evening read to power through, this novella is perfect if one also does not expect perfection. There is nothing to give any lasting impressions after a read, but it is nothing to regret either.

I should finally add that there are many adaptations of this story, including an Alfred Hitchcock adaptation. There are also four sequels that seem to be full-length novels, of which I have not read at this point. I have heard the Hitchcock film is phenomenal, but that should not come across as a surprise.

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With that, we come to a close. If you have suggestions/feedback, please do not hesitate to give them in the comments. These posts will be very informal, and I do not plan on giving any lengthy breakdowns (or actual meaty reviews) if that is your suggestion. Those will be longer posts, as not every story is worthy of a thousand or more words dedicated to sufficient examination.

Either than that, have a great night! 🙂

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On Aestheticism and Art

I can already sense the reactions to this title. Is it not true that the purpose of art is to be ‘aesthetic’? What does ‘aestheticism’ even entail, beyond being a buzzword that wannabe photographers (including my own limited repertoire) love to spew? Well, after a short introductory paragraph, that will be the hot topic of the day!

As always, thank you for joining me again today. I swear I had another post planned just shy of a month ago, yet a lack of interest in the subject matter following its closure left me without much tangible goodness to latch onto. However, upon my one-month anniversary at university, I have regained a much deeper appreciation of art and its various mediums that the blistering summer days scolded off of me. I am also aware that sounded quite preachy, so let us move on to the actual topic at hand.

This post will not be terribly thorough or ‘deep,’ so just sit back and enjoy me ramble on about art!

What does it mean to be ‘aesthetic’? In the simplest explanation possible, it is ‘art for art’s sake’ as per the slogan. Well, duh, you probably think to yourself at this moment. However, this applies to all mediums of art, including books and movies. You may also think to yourself, Doesn’t every book need some moral lesson to wrap things up? Aren’t books supposed to challenge us in a literary sense or at least provide an enthralling narrative? These arguments against aestheticism may sound like something I want to simply disprove, but as with all things human and at least somewhat complex, there is no correct answer that everyone unanimously agrees with.

One example that one of my university classes had me read was Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. Before I go on, I highly recommend you read this play on your own time as it is simply delightful. To speak more specifically, the play is a comedy of manners that pits various members of high-class England into a complicated dilemma on their pursuit of love, with various mishaps and sass to give it a bumbling character. If you have only read Shakespeare and you are afraid of archaic language and lengthy plays, feel relieved in knowing that Wilde’s play is only fifty pages long and that the language is quite close to fully modernized English.

Going along from that tangent, The Importance of Being Earnest is hilarious and colourful. As with most plays, it has symbolism, characters with different personalities, and poetic/literary devices. But how about deeper meaning? How about a commentary on the issues of 1895 in Victorian England? Why not be controversial, or even harshly truthful in a subtle manner? This is where aestheticism reigns, as not everything needs to speak to us on such a deeper level. Wilde’s play is not the commentary on insanity and leadership that Hamlet is, or on privacy and ideology that 1984 is either. It is simply a piece of art that is to be enjoyed and appreciated for its beauty.

Now, whether or not this is something you agree with this is a matter of personal preference. The importance of aestheticism here is that if you make something, make sure it resonates with you in some dazzling manner.

Now, it would not be a stadarooni blog post if I did not dwell on something that exists outside of the textual realm. Now, the reason I found this topic to be one of interest to me is due to me rewatching Edgar Wright’s Baby Driver over the past weekend. Even more so than Earnest, this film just screams aestheticism.

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Also, I really love this movie’s poster.

What is the purpose of music in the film? No, it is not like Guardians of the Galaxy in that it is a blast of the blast to be ‘distinct’ in a manner. Instead, music is for the film’s incredible choreography for the actions of its characters. To dig down further, what is the purpose of the choreography in itself? Well, it does not serve a narrative use, and it goes beyond fashionable filmmaking. It is ‘art for art’s sake,’ bringing this discussion back full-circle.

It does not need to be deep, as some critics would have you think. It is simple: a film like Baby Driver is to be appreciated like a sunset. When one gazes upon a sunset, do they see it as a metaphor for the last breathing moments of one’s life? Perhaps, so let us think of a better example. If one is in an idealistic beachhead with their lover, walking through the glistening beach, sipping on a pina colada (or your beverage of choice), and embraced by the turquoise sky, do they think of it as a metaphor for anything? No, they are enjoying the moment for its beauty, just as one watching a film like Baby Driver or a play like Earnest should seek to do. If one chases that which does not exist, they have set themselves up for nothing but disappointment.

Regardless, whether you believe aestheticism is great or if it betrays the complexity of art and meaning is ultimately up to you. If there is a slight lesson to be gained here, it is to look at things on a case-to-case basis. Do not go looking for the wonderful joy of art in a text like Beowulf, as you should know better.

I hope you enjoyed this post! I know I have been absent for a while, and it is a nice thing to be able to write so casually every now and then. Throughout my absence, I have been keeping an eye on this blog’s performance though, so there has not been a day I have truly forgotten about it. If I am to make one last announcement, you should go follow/friend me on Goodreads! I will be happy to let you see all the geeky Halo novels I have read, as well as all that highbrow literary crap that will prevent me from ever writing in a straightforward manner. (I kid, of course)

Anyways, enjoy your day, and keep on going! 🙂

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