Important and Wonderful and Cool

Dear people,

the one and only Mr. Neil Gaiman and his publisher Harper-Collins gave us another one of his books. This time it’s Neverwhere. For free. Online AND downloadable. Although:

The bad news is you don’t get to keep it forever. It’s yours for thirty days from download, and then the pdf file returns to its electrons. But if you’ve ever wondered about Neverwhere or wanted to read it for free, now is your chance. And free is free…

Neverwhere is wonderful. It’s one of my favourites (then again, most Gaiman books are my favourites) and you really should read it.

Oh, yeah. You can find it here. CLICK, CLICK!

And another thing: His new book’s out soon! September 30th, to be exact. YAY!

Lycidas Trilogy (Christoph Marzi)

Christoph Marzi (link is in German) is a German author. He writes fantatstic fiction and made his debut with Lycidas, followed by Lilith and Lumen, together forming the Lycidas trilogy.

The story revolves around Emily Laing, an orphan growing up in London. Together with her best friend Aurora Fitzrovia, she gets pulled into the going ons of the Ancient Metropole, which is very much like London Below from Neverwhere (Neil Gaiman).
Emily discovers that she has a special talent and the alchemist Mortimer Wittgenstein is assigned as Emily’s teacher. Their adventures take them to Hell, encountering rats, angels, the devil himself and other more or less mythical creatures.

The writing is a bit long winded, using phrases more complicated than necessary (and to no literary goal other than sounding sophisticated, at least that’s what it seemed like) and obviously loving outdated words and phrases. The outdated part can be justified by having Wittgenstein as the narrator, as he was born in the late 19th century. But still, it was a bit difficult to read.
Also, although Wittgenstein is the narrator, he can detail happenings that only Emily and not he experienced (which is explained toward the ending of the third book, which might be a little late for it).
Also, Marzi changes tenses more often than a model changes clothes during a show (and more quickly, too). He also jumps in time, but not congruent with the tense jumps, so I don’t really have an explanation for that.

But once you get used to his style, you can concentrate on the story. And damn, you need to concentrate on that. Because it’s complicated. Plot twist follows plot twist follows conspiracy follows betrayal. Honestly, I’m not sure that I got all the turns. I’m afraid that at some point in time I just kept going in one direction, while the plot went in another. But fear not, we met up later again.

Apart from the confusion, it’s a good story.

Marzi relies heavily on other influences, authors like Neil Gaiman, but also musicians like Irving Berlin and movies like Moulin Rouge!. He quotes a lot of works like that, but never seems to actually copy anything. He always manages to transform it into something new.

He also uses catchphrases a lot, most notably, “Don’t ask!” (Wittgenstein), “There are no coincides.” (almost all main characters) and “Come what may.” (Emily and Aurora).

What really kept me reading where the characters. Very sweet and likeable. And through the clever use of the catchphrases, you quickly feel like you know them.

I don’t know if I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Usually, when I recommend a book, it’s because I think that almost everybody who likes to read, will gain something from it, have something they like about it. With these books, I can recommend them to certain people only. People, who are able to not care about good prose that much. People, who go for characters more than for plot. People, who would recognise the references to the different influences.

I myself am not sure, if I want to read something else written by Marzi. Maybe I’ll have a look at the things, when I’m in the bookstore and see if it gets me again.

Triple Feature

Yesterday was very intense. I left work early (I started early as well) to be able to go to a triple movie feature. I finally saw Elizabeth: The Golden Age, There Will Be Blood and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. [You may call me crazy for doing that.]

Elizabeth: The Golden Age was amazing. I actually like it better than the first part (which was excellent as well and it had Vincent Cassel in drag).
Shekhar Kapur has a perfect feeling for the use of light and the effect of light and light in general. He could have made a little less “shots through ornaments” (he likes them, see also Elizabeth) but that’s ok.
The acting was a-fucking-mazing. I knew Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush do act really good. I also knew Clive Owen could but rarely would (this time he did). Surprises were: Rhys Ifans (I like him and I know he can act but I didn’t know he was in this movie) and Jordi Mollà (who I didn’t know before but who had the incredible ability to scream “I’m a totally fucked-up maniac and nothing can stop me” without uttering a single word). With that cast, I also have to give out a honorary mention of Abbie Cornish and Samantha Morton who were noticed :).
The dialogues were wonderful. Watching the movie I felt like I needed to take a pen out and write along. Or probably learn the screenplay (by William Nicholson and Michael Hirst) by heart.
Of course, the movie had some weak spots. I already mentioned the ornament shots. Then there was Archduke Charles, an Austrian who comes so the queen may see if he’s fit to marry. Anyway, Christian Brassington obviously doesn’t speak a word German (although he has a good German accent in English) but has to say a couple of sentences. I actually needed the subtitles to understand him because his accent was so bad. [Cate Blanchett had a better pronunciation.] That’s just embarassing.
And from the characterisation: Sir Walter Raleigh must have been one hell of a guy. First, he’s the perfect gentleman, funny, intelligent, knows how to tell a story, knows what he wants and has amazing green eyes (ok, those belong to Clive Owen). Then you might say he trips a little by sleeping with the queen’s chambermaid (or whatever you call the girls) [but I think that was only rational, not necessarily wise but rational – he knew nothing could happen with the queen]. Anyway, he gets Bess (the chambermaid) pregnant and instantly marries her and is happy with that. And after that he goes out and singlehandedly defeats the Spanish Armada.  That might be a little too much (but feeds my hope that somewhere out there might be a man who is a little bit like that).
Summarising: A wonderful film with wonderful actors and a wonderful script which has some minor faults. Plus: Clive Owen’s hotter than Joseph Fiennes.

On to There Will Be Blood:
I was actually very disappointed by this film. I mean, Daniel Day-Lewis is great, as usual, as is Paul Dano who does a very good job not disappearing beside DD-L. But the film concentrates so much on DD-L that everything else is lost.
The “deathmatch” between him and the church is actually no match at all, there never is a single shred of doubt about the outcome and I felt like laughing all the time about the “exorcisms”.
Relationships live and die with Plainview’s feelings, the other person he has the relationship with has no say in it. (And no matter how dominant one person may be, relationships don’t work that way.)
And the music was horrible. It was intrusive and didn’t fit. The beginning of the credits deserves an award for Worst Chosen Music In A Film.
I guess, if I ever had the chance to make a movie with Daniel Day-Lewis, I’d try to get him into it as much as possible. So I understand why Paul Thomas Anderson did it the way he did. But he should have cut about half an hour of the film and could have tried to incorporate some other actors in this film as well.
Without DD-L there wouldn’t have been a movie. With him, there’s great acting but not much of a film.

So we come to Sweeney Todd.
In a nutshell: Another masterpiece by Tim Burton. I loved it. I loved the story, the music, the costumes (K. [German] wrote about Johnny Depp‘s trousers, I have to point out his leather jacket) and the acting.
Let’s get the things I didn’t like out of the way: The opening credits. The blood was poorly animated, it looked much too sticky and he could have done better.
That’s it.
Of course, Tim Burton has this very distinct style and some people may call it repetitive but who cares? I love the way he uses colours, and the lack of them. As well as the way he uses the same actors to portray the same roles, gives it all a continuity. (Though I guess, Christina Ricci wasn’t available.)

jayne-wisener.jpg sleepyhollow.jpg
spot the five differences… I know, it’s hard…

The lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and Hugh Wheeler were just wonderful.

And in the darkness
When I’m blind
With what I can’t forget
It’s always morning in my mind

And there’s another quote (this time from the script by John Logan) I loved, Mrs. Lovett (Helena Bonham-Carter) says: “There could be an us, you know. It may not be what I dreamed of and it may not be what you remember, but it could be an us.”
I may be overinterpreting here, but I also liked the reference to Edward Scissorhands: Mr. Todd holds up the razor and says: “Finally, my arm is complete again.”
I laughed my ass off during the dream sequence. The striped bathing suits flat did it for me ((c) Anita Blake).
I don’t know what to think of Jamie Campbell Bower yet. He knows how to sing, that’s for sure, but I don’t think him that good an actor. And he looks weird.

jamie-campbell-bower.jpg

Alan Rickman, of course, was great. And Sacha Baron Cohen as “Call me Davey” Pirelli had me almost falling off my chair. And Timothy Spall was the perfect cast for Beadle. (When I saw him, my first thought was “Mr. Croup!” but I mistook him for Hywel Bennett. Only my second thought was “Peter Pettigrew!“)
And Giles Anthony Stewart Head was there, if only for five seconds.

There are about a thousand more things I could write about this film, but I’ll leave it at that. I guess you know already what I’m feeling about it.