Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Witty British graffiti from someone who knows our weather well
Happy New Year everyone! And what a new year it has been! Different Year, Same Weather. Yes, that is correct, the rainy wet and dark stormy weather that plagued us all Christmas has followed us into 2014. Ah, well, I suppose it is sort of comforting that some things remain the same despite the passage of time.

I did not let the stormy and dark night get me down yesterday and celebrated the New Year with some close friends and a bowl of warm spicy chili con carne. One of my friends has a little baby, so I actually spent most of the evening pleasantly making a 4 month year old smile and gurgle. There is nothing as sweet as a baby's freely given smile. After consuming a glass of celebratory champagne and engaging in a long conversation on what makes good TV scifi, my friends left to bravely travel home in the rain and I passed out around 3am.

I woke this morning to an onslaught of new rain. And more rain and still more rain. The wind has raged around our little attic flat for over 2 weeks now and so I was not surprised to see that a New Year's Day walk was out of the question. As the storm lashed against our windows and pummeled the pavement outside, I settled on my New Year's Resolutions for 2014:

1. Write more
2. Read more
3. See my friends and parents more
4. Worry less
5. Get more exercise
6. Concentrate seriously on my photography

Out of all of the above, obviously the hardest one for me is to exercise more (I am lazy) and then perhaps worry less (I am very cerebral). But I figure that the two resolutions might cancel each other out. If I exercise more, the endorphins and physical exertion might lead me to worry less. I immediately started off my resolutions with reading 2 chapters of a Bill Bryson book and then emailing 3 of my friends to arrange meeting up in the next month. Feeling very satisfied with myself but not so much so with the weather outside, I suggested to my husband that we see a movie. When the weather is this bad in the UK, visiting museums or going to the movies or even going back to bed, are the only reasonable options open to a person. My husband opted for the movies and we booked to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at our local cinema.

Off we popped in the wind and rain to catch a bus to the cinema, brandishing our umbrella like a weapon. I was really looking forward to seeing this film for several reasons, but mainly because I loved the first Hobbit film and was curious to see how the story would continue under Peter Jackson's magical direction. I can't actually say I am much of a fan of Tolkien myself, I never enjoyed his books that much, mostly because I was forced to read a few of them for English class in school and if there is one thing that will put you off a piece of literature, it is obsessively studying it in detail for 8 weeks. But I loved the Hobbit and the Lord of The Rings movies for a few simple reasons:

  • The Special Effects - when I first saw The Fellowship of The Ring movie, I was in my first year of university. My friends from my dorm and I went to the cinema on lazy Sunday night. I was blown away my the visual effects and scenery. I felt like I was flying in some scenes and going deep underground in others. It was exhilarating. The movie broke visual boundaries and we could not stop excitedly babbling about it for hours afterwards.
  • The Soundtrack - all of the Lord of The Rings films (and The Hobbit too) have the most wonderful music composed by Howard Shore. The hobbit themes that accompanies the scenes set in the Shire especially reminds me of England and it's rolling green hills.
  • The stories are about lots of short people - dwarves, hobbits, short-arsed humans - as a short person myself, I like stories about short people who are brave and kick ass while being short.
  • The films contain strong women - Peter Jackson was wise in adding women to an otherwise male dominated bunch of stories and he embellishes the female characters that do appear in the books. I prefer the female characters in the films and I think that it is appropriate, in this modern day and age, that the films should exhibit more gender equality than Tolkien's novels (which are one sided with mostly male characters).
  • The Scenery of New Zealand - Peter Jackson must have done more for the New Zealand tourist industry than anyone else, since his films contain the most breathtaking shots of his home country. Mountains? Check! Grass plains? Check! Snow? Check! Vast lakes? Check! Leafy forests? Check! Great cliffs and waterfalls? Check! Get me on plane to New Zealand pronto! I want to take my camera and go Orc hunting!
Martin Freeman acting his socks off as plucky heroic hobbit, Bilbo Baggins
So you can imagine that this afternoon, I was all geared up for The Hobbit Part 2. I did enjoy it, but it was a lot of action and fight scenes and chases and death-defying stunts and not much dialogue. The scenery was gorgeous as always, Martin Freeman was as charming as Bilbo Baggins as he was last time and there was the nice added inclusion of Benedict Cumberbatch as Smaug the Dragon. He did a great job of hissing out Smaug's greed, pride and villainy through some well written speeches. I couldn't really imagine a dragon talking but Mr Cumberbatch really brought him alive.

Smaug's creepy dragon eye that he fixes upon Bilbo

I did feel a little tense after almost three hours of watching some Orcs pursue and terrorise some Dwarves, who then ended up fleeing a giant fire-breathing dragon. As I watched Bilbo scrabble about in the Mines of Erebor, some doubting thoughts once again surfaced in my mind:

  • Why do people always insist on making stories about good vs evil? Surely life is not that simple? Why in these stories are the evil people completely evil, with no trace of any redeeming character traits at all? And why do they look evil? (ie. missing an eye, sharp teeth, hook for a hand, bad hair, disturbingly gravelly voice). Has anyone not heard of a really good looking person being evil? Surely we have examples even in real life of very attractive individuals with good dental care and immaculate haircuts who are complete moral abysses inside.
  • What do the evil characters actually get out of being so evil? I understand that Sauron wants to rule the world with the ONE RING and cloak Middle Earth in DARKNESS, but WHY? So that he can eat more chocolate? So he can make everyone do line dancing? What does he plan to do once he has killed all the little Hobbits and built Orcs their own private playground? And how frightened can you be of wizard who is basically just one giant eye?!
  • How are the Orcs even alive? Do they have Orc mothers? Orc weddings and Orc baby showers? What do the Orcs get out of following the commands of the evil master, except maybe a pretty ugly death at the hands of Legolas or Gandalf. Are they paid some sort of remuneration for their dastardly deeds? Do they have a union? I have the same problem with Star Wars. The good people are pretty, with nice plaited hair and the evil people are dressed like Storm Troopers or have lots of wrinkles and facial scars. The Dark Side does not seem to be built on anything concrete. Why be Dark? What do you gain from it? These epic battles between good and evil just seem so one dimensional.
  • I am sure you are now thinking: Just get a grip Clara! It is only scifi! It does not need to make much sense, just enjoy it! So, I let my doubts go and then another thought arises as I watch the movie: Why do the people of Middle Earth never put safety railings on their incredibly high walkways? What's to stop a drunk elf or a sleepy dwarf from accidentally toppling to their death? For examples, see below:
Careful! Don't trip! There is waterfall beneath you and no railing to hold on to...
Gandalf, you are asking for trouble, that bridge is pretty narrow and there is a demon on it with you....
Even entering the Elf community is fraught with danger, since they neglected to add walls to their little round bridge.
Oh I give up! I will just sit back and enjoy the scenery. 

So anyway now I am back home, the rain has died down, dinner has been cooked and consumed, 1 more chapter of my book has been read, my blog has been written, I tried to do some sit ups and I failed...what next?
I am about to put my feet up, grab a yogurt and some leftover Xmas chocolate and watch Sherlock on BBCIplayer. Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch twice in one day? I am a lucky girl! Now, Sherlock is a TV show that is sort of rooted in reality? Right? It is set in contemporary London and the hero lives on Baker Street. Right near where I work.....except....Baker Street in the show does not actually look like Baker Street in real life.....oh I go again!