Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Hobbit Redo

Blog week 6 The Hobbit

Greed and Obsession in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

From the beginning, we see the presence of a class system in middle earth and Hobbiton, as well as discussion of material wealth. With Bilbo, we learn that he is part Baggins and part Took. The Baggins are known as simple, middle class hobbits (classic Hobbit behavior), while the Tooks were extremely wealthy and adventurous and therefore harshly criticized in the Hobbit community. While Bilbo certainly enjoys the comfort of his home and his possessions, he doesn’t seem to desire much more than what he needs to live a quiet, leisurely life.
The Dwarves provide a foil to Bilbo’s humble, passive persona. They are boisterous and adventurous, and certainly greedy. The whole reason the Dwarves were evicted from their home was because they amassed a treasure so great, it attracted the dragon Smaug, who easily destroyed their homes and hoarded the treasure. The Dwarves whole culture is based around mining and obtaining gold and other precious minerals and metals, and now they are basically homeless and broke. Smaug’s character takes greediness to a whole other level, having the most intense desire for gold and jewels, then doing nothing but lie in it. Tolkien definitely makes clear his negative opinion on greed, and the pursuit of adventure and friendship is much more important in life.
Gollum and Thorin Oakenshield are very similar in their obsession for certain objects. Both of them lost their homes, and in their long separation from home they both have grown obsessed with a single, important object. Smaug destroyed Thorin’s grandfather’s kingdom under the Lonely Mountain, while Thorin escaped with only his life. Though The Hobbit doesn’t explain exactly how Gollum came to live under the Misty Mountains, it does refer to a time “long, long ago, before (Gollum) lost all his friends and was driven away, alone, and crept down, down, into the dark under the mountains” (5.22).
Thorin’s object of desire is the Arkenstone of Thrain, a giant diamond that is, to Thorin, priceless. Thrain was Thorin’s father, so the stone represents to him his family and the loss of his family’s greatness. Thorin even considers waging war on Bard and the Elven King just to get his stone back. Bilbo clearly doesn’t feel this intense desire for material wealth, as he gladly hands the Arkenstone to Bard to try and prevent war breaking out. Perhaps this is because he knows he has his comfortable hobbit home under the Hill to go back to.

Gollum loves the Ring more than anything else in the world. He often calls it his “birthday present”, alluding to a time when he was a normal hobbit and actually had birthdays and presents. This is extremely depressing, as we see him whisper to it, crouching alone in the dark. When Bilbo steals the ring, Gollum swears eternal hatred on him for stealing “his precious”. While Bilbo doesn’t give Gollum back the ring (Gollum would probably kill him), he only uses it to avoid people, which is inconsequential compared to the potential power the ring holds.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Literary Speculation

"The Aquatic Uncle" by Italo Calvino

Are there any prominent symbols in the story? If so, what are they and how are they used?
The most obvious symbolism centers around the evolution of generations and their impact on each other and the world. The fish symbolize the old generation, remaining in the homeland. Some of the fish leave earlier than others, causing their genetic line to evolve faster than others. This reflects families immigrating from different countries. Each evolution, a little more of the traditional customs are lost (appearances and abilities change, etc.), and a new culture emerges from those on land. As years go by, each side (though still technically family) becomes unrecognizable from the other. This seems to symbolize emigration to America from the older countries, and the "great melting pot" that we all become a part of.

What connections did you make with the story you read? 
A Clockwork Orange is similar to The Aquatic Uncle in some interesting ways. Both of the main characters (Alex and Qfwfq) are part of an evolution and rapidly changing times, yet it seems they both are a bit stuck in their ways. In Clockwork Orange, Alex goes on mindless violent rampages on a regular basis, with no plans for stopping any time soon. At the end, we get a slight glimpse that he may be getting bored with the mischief but he ultimately resolves that even if he does settle down, his children will be more insane and violent than he was. As well, he is supposedly "stripped of his free will" while undergoing the Ludovico torture, like Qfwfq denies himself of the choice to return to the water by closing his mind to his uncle's opinions. In Aquatic Uncle, Qfwfq talks at the end about not being a "somebody" who will bring on the future, he is content in his unchanging ways while at the same time being part of the unstoppable revolution.

What changes would you make to adopt this story into another medium? What medium would you use? What changes would you make?
If I were to make this story into a movie, there's not a whole lot that would need to be changed. I would make the names easy to pronounce, and the animals would definitely be humanoid in character. I think it would definitely make an interesting short film, with nice aesthetic cinematography to contrast the land and the water. I would definitely shoot it on an island, and perhaps put a little more action in there such as predators seeking out the land fish/lizards and maybe acidification in the oceans to add pros and cons to each area. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Diverse Position Sci-Fi

Week 12: Diverse Position Science Fiction
Attack the Block (2012) dir. Joe Cornish

            We first meet our heroes—who also happen to petty street thugs—when they rob a young nurse on her way home. The group of boys are a stereotypical picture of urban youth, in dark hoodies with switchblades, but they also have a great sense of humor and adventure and, in their own way, a subtle kindness. When an alien creature comes crashing through a parked car like a meteor, their boyish curiosity and tendency for violence comes out as they prod it, chase it, beat it to death, then drag it around the neighborhood like a prize.
            Killing and stashing the creature turns out to be a horrible mistake, as it turns out to be a pheromone-ridden female and the target for a massive invasion of the fearsome male creatures. The boys end up making an unlikely ally with the nurse when they take refuge in her apartment, all in the same building they live in also known as “The Block”. The leader of the group, Moses, a stone-faced kid who won’t even apologize to the nurse for robbing her saves the group multiple times with his knowledge of hiding spots and fighting techniques (no doubt learned from his thuggish behavior).

            The movie is speckled with fast-paced humor in engaging South London slang, through this band of unlikely characters that are very believable and consistent in their personalities. That’s why it’s so terrifying that not all of them will survive this attack. This movie has some genuinely frightening and violent moments that leave the viewer anxious for the boys’ safety, all the while playing with the concept of “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” sentimental moments.

Cyberpunk & Steampunk

Post Coming Soon!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Big Idea Sci-Fi

Blog Week 10 Psci-Fi
A Scanner Darkly dir. Richard Linklater
Adapted closely from the novel by Philip K. Dick

This is one of my favorite late-night movies of all time. It transcends many categories, but is mostly a Sci-Fi film at heart. It is a “1984”-type dystopian future, a tale of drug addiction and it’s consequences, and a comedy led by the antics of Woody Harrelson and Robert Downey Jr. It is a deep philosophical discussion about reality cloaked in a noir mystery, and a mesmerizingly alive animated graphic novel, exposing the audience firsthand to the harrowing hallucinations of an addict. It will certainly be a cult classic.
The main character Bob Arctor is one of many undercover cops dedicated to ending the reign of a drug known as Substance D, a drug so addictive that over 20% of the population is hooked. He works at an extremely secretive (yet effective) treatment facility in which they all have to wear “scramble suits”, which are constantly changing appearance (which works well with the animation style). The twist comes when we learn that our hero is himself an addict, and is then ordered to start spying on “Bob Arctor”.

It’s interesting to see the film play with the fact that doing drugs (at first) can actually be very enjoyable and lead to good times. A lot of films paint it as a dark, looming experience from the start, but then viewers don’t understand why the characters can’t just put the pipe down if it sucks so much anyways. As Bob grows increasingly disoriented, the audience does as well and it becomes harder to distinguish between what’s hallucinatory and what’s real. In the end, we see that the movie is also a tragedy, a mirror to our own addicted society, corporations only seeing the bottom line, an endless “war on drugs”, and a reminder of how easy it is to get lost.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Space Opera

Blog Week 9 Space Opera
“The Stars My Destination” by Alfred Bester

            The reading for this week was very interesting, but also a bit easy to get lost in the storyline. It seemed as though the narrative changed with each page, just so many things happening at once. The main character Gully Foyle starts out as an unambitious man, he’s unskilled and uneducated and most things aren’t working out for him. He goes through many transformations throughout the story. The gears are set in motion for this man’s life to change drastically when his ship is attacked and he is marooned for six months in space, all alone, waiting. A passing ship ignores his cry for help, and Foyle transforms into a man now consumed by rage and revenge.

            This book came about during the late stages of the cyberpunk movement, which is a “subgenre of sci-fi in a near future setting. Noted for it’s focus on high-tech and low-life, it features advanced science, such as information technology and cybernetics, coupled with a degree of breakdown or radical change in the social order.” This book was meant to be a sort of vision into the future in which there was cybernetic body enhancement, as well as an interesting concept called “jaunting” which is basically personal teleportation. As well, there are examples of telepathy in this world. The characters are interesting and dimensional, especially Gully Foyle. Although he is a bit predictable, everyone loves a good righteous revenge story. Something I really liked was that after he got the “tiger face” tattoo removed (which was forced on him to begin with), it will resurface when he becomes enraged. The plot is a bit overworked, and some thing could definitely be simplified and easier to follow, but the author obviously has a great imagination and knack for creating worlds. The ending was fantastic, and overall the book made me think more about evolution and where our society may be heading.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Mythic Fiction & Contemporary Urban Fantasy

Week 8 “Lady in the Water” and “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”

            Contemporary Urban Fantasy - Going from the mundane world to the fantastical, the two worlds coexisting in the same realm or parallel realms.

Lady in the Water directed by M. Night Shamalan was a bit too corny for me. The main detractor for me was the overly self-indulgent role that Shamalan put himself in as the savior of the story. He plays a role he probably imagines mirroring his own life, a misunderstood author who will one day influence a boy destined to become the president of the United States. His acting in this role is unintentionally funny, with awkward and unbelievable reactions to the turning of events throughout the story. The fairy tale aspects of it are very interesting though, with a mystical woman (a Narf) being prevented from returning from her world by ferocious grass wolves (Scrunts). The music was really great, though.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman begins with the narrator returning to his now dilapidated and run-down childhood home for the first time since he left many years ago. He begins to remember parts of his childhood, when he was seven years old and his family was taking in boarders to help pay the rent. The narrator remembers one of these housemates, a miner, accidentally killing his kitten and later killing himself in his family’s car. This incident releases an ancient evil through a wormhole (a literal hole with a worm which he breaks off half of) in the narrator’s foot in the form of a woman named Ursula. Ursula seduces his family into trusting her, and soon begins a relationship with his father. Lettie Hempstock and the other Hempstocks help his family overcome Ursula’s evil, and have a very close encounter with death. Ursula is eaten by supernatural scavenging birds who also want to eat the narrators heart (because Ursula left a piece of her in him). While speaking with the Hempstocks in present time, the narrator finds out Lettie almost died saving the narrator, by jumping in front of the hunger birds when he tries to sacrifice himself. He finds out this is not the first time he’s returned to the property, and he comes to see Lettie. The narrator’s memory is extremely unreliable, but he asks the Hempstocks to tell Lettie he was there when she returns from Australia (she is actually recovering in another world). This story is very interestingly written, from the perspective of a grown man having flashbacks to when he was a child.

            The myth in this novel is very integrated into the contemporary world. Although it is not as realistic as some myths, it is very inspiring and heartwarming. A myth is defined as a traditional story concerning the early history of a people or an explanation of a natural or social phenomenon, typically involving supernatural aspects. This story definitely fits these criteria. It tells the history of a battle between good and evil and the history of the supernatural Hempstocks. It explains how evil is brought into this world (by suicide) with Ursula’s appearance (and spread with money) and how evil is eradicated with her downfall. This was a very enjoyable book, very interesting and smart and clever.