I may have accidentally abandoned this blog for the longest time.

My excuse is that I started university and that university is much more taxing than I expected.

But I’m going to try and get back into this soon.

I hope.

Minor Update

Hey guys, sorry for not posting within the last month. I don’t really have any excuses other than the fact that I haven’t seen any films recently.

I also started university last Monday and have had such a busy week that I even forgot my aunt’s birthday. Well done Danny.

I did finish reading Throne of Glass not long ago so there may be a review of that coming up at some point, but I’m not sure how this blog will go now that I’m going to have lots of work to be getting on with for the next 8 months.

So yeah…

Sorry for the lack of updates. There may be some in the near future, but there also may not be. I’m great at this blogging thing, right?

Whitewashing and #StarringJohnCho

(Note: this became a bit of a rant so bear that in mind.)

The topic of whitewashing has been getting more and more attention over the past few years, particularly since the use of social media has escalated to a ridiculous level. This year the topic became even more popular (and even controversial) when the Oscar nominations were announced. There were no non-white nominees for the top four categories and this prompted a boycott for the Academy Awards. From my experience with this boycott, it seemed to be spearheaded by actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who tweeted about the lack of diversity in the Academy. Although this isn’t directly linked with whitewashing, it certainly brought more attention to the topic than there was previously.

I personally began taking notice of whitewashing (specifically in film) when I began using the microblogging platform tumblr. Once upon a time I was a fandom blogger. Yes, I was one of those annoying teenagers who thought everything related to Doctor Who or Supernatural and had to tell the world about it – even if no soul cared or if I annoyed them, which I’m sure I did, and I regret it all. But my time on tumblr wasn’t a total waste. Alongside discovering that negativity breeds negativity, and discovering that I was actually a feminist (still am), I learnt of whitewashing, and more importantly, how damaging it is to non-white communities.

The first time I discovered whitewashing in film was in The Last Airbender, which, aside from being an absolutely dreadful film, portrayed Inuit and Asian teenagers as white people. Although they did cast the antagonists of the film with Indian actors, that still caused a controversy due to having the villains being dark-skinned, as the animated characters were designed to resemble Chinese and Japanese people.

Other films I saw (or was shown) were whitewashed were: Star Trek Into Darkness, where the character Khan is played by Benedict Cumberbatch, despite being of Indian descent; Exodus: Gods and Kings, a film set in Egypt and the middle east, starring an almost all white cast; Pan, which cast a Native American princess as white (how on Earth do you get this one wrong?); Gods of Egypt, more white people playing Egyptians.

The upcoming film, The Great Wall, has also been accused of whitewashing, but has been defended by its Chinese director, Zhang Yimou. Matt Damon has been cast as a soldier in medieval China, which would suggest that the character would be Chinese. However, Zhang has claimed that Damon’s role was not written as a Chinese character. This has also caused controversy, with people sating that Zhang cast a white lead for his film because it has become the norm in Hollywood.

The biggest controversy to date that I have seen has been the Ghost in the Shell 2017 live action adaptation of the Japanese manga of the same name. The manga is set in Japan with Japanese characters, and yet Scarlett Johansson has been cast as the lead role. Not only that, but the production company later revealed that they tried to digitally alter Johansson’s facial features to make her look Japanese, which seems to me (and many others) like a 21st century take on yellowface.

This brings me on to the #StarringJohnCho movement. The movement started on Twitter as a way of bringing to attention the lack of Asian-American representation in Hollywood. The movement began with the power of photoshop and image editing software that people used to put the face of actor John Cho (Harold in Harold & Kumar/ Sulu in Star Trek) onto film posters in place of caucasian actors. They did this in order to show that Asian actors can in fact play lead roles in films, despite the fact that only 1% of leading roles in Hollywood go to Asian actors. The movement got the attention of the actor (who was not affiliated with it) and he has since shown his support for it. Alongside this movement, other Asian-American actors have spoken up about the lack of Asian actors receiving roles, such as Constance Wu, Ming-Na Wen, and Arden Cho.

John Cho’s name is something I’ve only recently learned. If I ever saw him on TV or in a movie, my reaction would be “Hey, I’ve seen that guy before”. But I’d never actually learnt his name. To me, he was “that guy from Harold & Kumar”. I think that shows that Asian-American actors are so poorly under represented in film and TV – the fact that I never learnt his name, especially one so simple as John Cho. I could almost guarantee that if I mentioned John Cho, Arden Cho, or Ming-Na Wen to any of my family members, none of them would recognize the names or be able to tell me what they’ve starred in or who they’ve played.

We’ve focussed a hell of a lot on the underrepresentation of black people in film (which is highly important), but because of the strong focus on this, we’ve forgotten about the other minorities of the world. (Not that Asia could be a minority, considering its population dwarfs any other continent.) But in Hollywood and American media, Asian-American actors rarely get leading roles. In fact, the majority of the time that I see Asian characters on TV, they’re portraying villains for one or two episodes – usually the Chinese Triad or the Japanese Yakuza.

As the largest film industry in the world, Hollywood really needs to get on with representing different races and cultures in the films they make. Whitewashing causes more harm than good, and the pool of actors and actresses from ‘minorities’ is getting larger all the time, so there’s actually no need for whitewashing.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child -J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne & John Tiffany (2016) [Spoilers]

I decided well before I even received my copy of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child that I wouldn’t review it immediately after reading it. I knew that, being a massive Harry Potter fan growing up (I still am), my thoughts on the play would be clouded by intense nostalgia and love for the series that has been ever-present in my life. I was almost right.

After finishing the book, I immediately went to Goodreads (as I always do) to tell the world that I had read this book and to give it a star rating. Since the announcement of the published script, I had hoped to give it a nice, proud five-star rating and to be filled with the joy and wonder that has always accompanied the Harry Potter universe for me. As it turns out, that didn’t happen, and the book got a nice – but not great – four stars from me.

As expected, I loved the book. I just didn’t love it as much as I had expected. I was so happy to be back inside the world of Harry Potter – particularly the book world. But as much as I loved the new characters (particularly Scorpius, who is my favourite from the book), I was somewhat disappointed in the returning characters.

Harry himself was by far the most disappointing of the returning characters. His entire character seemed wrong to me. That wasn’t the Harry Potter I had grown up loving. I know that it is set 22 years after the final book, but Harry’s life in between didn’t seem to be particularly taxing enough to cause such a massive change in personality.

Draco was also a disappointment; in particular, his relationship with Harry. In the epilogue of Deathly Hallows, there is a minor interaction between Draco and Harry, and from that interaction I inferred that their relationship had changed somewhat in the years since the Battle of Hogwarts. I believed that they had become quite civil acquaintances and would be able to have a decent conversation without snapping at each other. Clearly I was wrong.

However, the return of Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger made me very happy. Their relationship was still quite fun and enjoyable to read, despite the fact that Hermione has probably the hardest job in the Wizarding World. I have to confess that my mental image of Hermione was in fact a white woman. This was not because I don’t approve of the play’s casting, but because that’s the mental picture I’ve had in my mind since reading the Philosopher’s Stone many years ago. And as strange as it may seem to some people, changing your mental image of a fictional character is really hard.

I particularly enjoyed Hermione’s characterisation in the second timeline that was created with the time-turner. Hermione badass, warrior rebel and it made me happy to see her be something other than the bookworm we all know and love. This was my favourite timeline because of another thing: Snape. I don’t know whether it was the fact that Snape was actually a good guy – and we got to see him be a good guy – or the fact that I’m still sad about Alan Rickman, but I absolutely loved Snape in this book.

Albus Potter wasn’t as great a character as I had hoped for. To me he seemed like a bit of a brat who didn’t seem to want anything to do with his father, no matter what Ginny said. According to her, Albus wanted to feel Harry’s love, but I didn’t pick any of that up. He seemed to get worse and worse as the book progressed. He was worse than OOTP Harry.

To move on, I’m going to talk about the story. I found the story somewhat lacking in the ‘point’ department. I didn’t see a ‘point’ in the story. The plot came out of nowhere and seemed entirely random. I mean, save Cedric Diggory? Who came up with this? And why was Albus so determined to rescue someone he never knew and who didn’t really mean much to anyone other than Amos? It all seemed a little bit forced. It also seemed to me that nothing really happened. There were no character arcs or “new equilibrium” that usually follows a plot heavy story. There wasn’t much difference between the beginning at the end is what I’m trying to say. There were no character evolutions and the plot had absolutely no effect of the world in the long run. Rose’s character was also destroyed right at the beginning. I highly doubt that she would stop talking to her cousin – who I assume she’s close to – because he chose to sit with a Malfoy.

Delphini was an interesting character. I remember there being rumours and headcanons all over the internet about Voldemort having an heir with Bellatrix Lestrange, and I was actually quite happy to find out she actually was. I did find her to be an odd, off character but me being naïve thought she was actually a protagonist and didn’t suspect a thing. I liked the idea of her going back to the night of the Potter’s deaths to save her father rather than going to the night of his death. It was a very logical, smart thing to do.

My biggest dislike was actually the ‘romance’ in the book. Albus’s crush on Delphini didn’t sit right with me and Scorpius asking Rose out was completely out of the blue and made absolutely no sense. Rose despised Scorpius from the get-go and I can’t see how Scorpius developed a crush on her at all. In my complete and utter honest opinion, I thought Albus and Scorpius would become a couple. From the awkward interactions at the beginning, to the “Do we do hugs?”, to the clear amount of love those boys held for each other, I saw a couple. People could argue that it was just a strong friendship bond and that there was no romance at all, but to me they were as clear as Ron/Hermione. Rowling failed with her representation of LGBTQ+ characters in the original series, I thought that this was the perfect opportunity to change that. Alas, no. Heterosexuality must prevail, apparently.

I did really enjoy this book, despite all the dislikes I appear to have ranted about in this post. It took me a total of 7 hours to complete the book from start to finish, including breaks for food and other things. It was great to return to the world of Harry Potter for what was probably the final time. I will miss it greatly, but we can’t have something this great go on for too long, lest it be ruined by continuing on for longer than necessary. (Looking at you, Supernatural.)  Of course, we have Fantastic Beasts to look forward to, but it’s not going to be quite the same as returning to the actual character of Harry Potter.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – Ransom Riggs (2011) [Minor Spoilers]

I decided I had to read this book after I saw the trailer for the film. I’ll admit the main things that stood out to me in the trailer were Asa Butterfield and Eva Green but the concept interested me too. The idea of an orphanage for children with powers was something I hadn’t seen before –  the closest thing being Camp Half-Blood in Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson & The Olympians. I decided that I had to see the film, and, as with most films based on books, I decided that I had to read the book before the film. (I usually do this. I did it with Percy Jackson, City of Bones, Divergent, The Hunger Games, Twilight – and even Wicked, before I saw the musical.)

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is about a teenage boy named Jacob, who, after a family tragedy, goes to a small island off the coast of Wales in search of the home his grandfather lived in as an evacuee during World War II. Jacob’s grandfather had told him fantasical stories about his childhood in that home and Jacob felt a pull towards the place.

This book didn’t go the way I expected it to. From the way the trailer is, I thought the story would take place during modern day, but it doesn’t. Jacob winds up in 1940 inside a thing called a Loop. A Loop is a form of stasis for the children and Miss Peregrine. The same day is repeated again and again and the children don’t grow older. They remember the events of the previous days as you and I do outside of a Loop, but they are forever living on the 3rd September 1940. The Loop keeps the children safe from the hollows – mutated Peculiars with a hunger for Peculiar flesh – as well as the bomb that was dropped on the home by a German bomber. The Loop resets just before the bomb explodes, keeping everyone safe.

I really enjoyed this book and managed to read it in just over a week. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump all year and haven’t read nearly as much as I’ve wanted to, so reading it in a week is pretty good for me this year. I enjoyed the photographs that accompany the story. At the back of the book, the author states that all photographs featured in the book are actual vintage photographs which had little to no editing involved on them. Being in a slump, the photographs helped break up the story a little bit more than the chapters alone did, and this helped me get through the book more easily than I probably would have otherwise.

I would say that Jacob is my favourite character, but a problem I found with this book is that the other characters aren’t characterised very well. I found it difficult to get to know the other characters, save for Jacob’s father. Hopefully this will improve in the rest of the series. I’ll find out soon enough as I’m going to get Hollow City from the library tomorrow.

The story in this first book is intriguing, to say the least. Modern fantasy is one of my favourite genres and I love entering new worlds with complex histories and creatures. The creatures and the lore in this story are original and something I’ve never seen the likes of before. I look forward to reading the rest of the series and seeing the film. I hope they live up to expectations.

Django Unchained (2012) [Spoilers]

(I think it’s worth noting that reviewing film is more difficult for me than TV)

This was an odd film for me to watch. I wasn’t really interested when it came out in 2012, nor was I really interested in watching it when I actually sat down to watch it. Generally any film that’s about slavery in America doesn’t interest me. I’ve seen a few and they tend to be similar films with similar plots and similar characters. So I was actually surprised to enjoy Django Unchained.

Django Unchained is a film about a slave, Django, who is freed (literally unchained) by a German bounty hunter, Dr. King Schultz, in the need of his help. As their relationship progresses, Django reveals to Schultz that he is married but that his wife is currently owned by a powerful plantation owner. Schultz agrees to travel to Candieland with Django, the plantation where his wife is currently enslaved and owned by Calvin Candie, in order to rescue his wife from the slaver.

Before I get into this, I think it’s prudent that I tell you that this is only the second Tarantino film I’ve seen (the first being From Dusk Until Dawn, which I didn’t enjoy much due to me watching the TV series first and finding the film lacking.) Naturally, I’ve seen multiple scenes from Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, but I’ve not seen either of the films all the way through. I plan on it, I’ve just never gotten around to watching them.

First of all, this film was funny. That was something I was really not expecting. It’s been 4 years since I’ve seen the trailer or anything to do with the film so anything that was hinted at has gone from my memory. Of course it’s all ridiculously dark humour, such as the moment Schultz shoots Django’s original slaver in the head – which is much more amusing to watch than it sounds due to the conversation leading up to it, which I can’t remember in detail.

Another thing – lots and lots of blood. I knew that was coming because I know Tarantino likes lots of blood in his films, but I didn’t expect so much in the film. Throughout most of the film, when characters of killed, there really isn’t much blood, so it made the shootout in Candie’s house so much more surprising. It was like watching a live action episode of Bleach, with excessive amounts of blood spraying all over the place. I’m not trying to be insulting, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Lots of films I watch nowadays have so little blood that it’s refreshing to see Tarantino remind audiences that the human body has 5 litres of blood and that large calibre bullet will in fact cause that to spatter out of the body onto everything around it.

I was upset to see Schultz die near the end of the film, as he was a rare character that exists in films about slavery that doesn’t believe in enslaving human beings. However, his final act was both amusing and satisfying, so he went out with a bang (figuratively and literally). Although, the blood spatter on the bookcases behind him was magnificent.

Django’s wife, Broomhilda von Shaft, played by Kerry Washington was a rather timid character (as one would be in her situation) but I did find it jarring to see Washington in a -for lack of a better word – ‘weak’ role after seeing her play Olivia Pope in the TV show Scandal. She did a good job of it, and I’m not complaining as I know this is the job of an actor, I just felt the need to point it out.

Overall, I liked this film. I wouldn’t say I loved it, but I definitely liked it. It’s not something I would watch again, however. I feel the movie was a bit too long and could have easily been shortened whilst still keeping with the development of characters and plot.

The Winds of Winter – Game of Thrones Season 6 Finale

Anyone who knows me knows that my opinion of the last 2 seasons of Game of Thrones is pretty negative. I’m a person who likes my adaptations to stick to the original source material as closely as possible, something Game of Thrones hasn’t done as of late.

Now I know nothing can stick to source material 100%, especially something as large as A Song of Ice and Fire, but they managed well with seasons 1-4 without much of a problem, but then crammed 2 novels (3 books) worth of material into season 5 and then overtook the books for season 6, taking the story into their own hands, but I digress.

Episode 10 of almost all of the seasons has been pretty bad in my opinion. This may be because episode 9 is the big climax to each season and that episode 10 is the aftermath, which is never as enjoyable as the climax itself. However episode 10 of season 6, The Winds of Winter, was definitely a great episode. This episode might even beat episode 9 for me.

Cersei dealt with the High Sparrow and his band of fanatics, as well as taking out Margaery in the process (much to my despair). Daenerys has finally set sail for Westeros, Arya went home and crossed another name of her list (and about time too!), and Tommen met his foreseen demise, if in an unpredictable way.

Despite the fact that Margaery was killed in a fiery explosion and the beautiful Natalie Dormer will no longer be gracing our screens on Game of Thrones, Kings Landing hosted my favourite parts of this episode. I loved seeing Cersei’s plot unfurl. Watching Lancel crawl to the barrels of wildfire to try and put out the fuse was an enjoyable bit of mental torture for the religious fanatic. Seeing him fail was even better. The floor erupting beneath the High Sparrow and the wildfire engulfing him was a beautiful sight (despite, as I’ve said, the tragic deaths of Margaery and Loras Tyrell). What I also found amusing was the fact that Cersei used the zombie Mountain to keep Tommen away from Baelor’s Sept in order to keep him alive, but once he was told of Margaery’s death, he decided to take an stroll out of a high window of the Red Keep. What this means is that Cersei can now die at any time, since the Maegi from her childhood predicted that all of her children will die before her, and now they have. (I’m annoyed about Myrcella but I’ll let it go for now.)

The most satisfying scene in this episode, if not the entire season, was in the Twins. An unknown girl enters the great hall and serves Walder Frey a nice big pie. He wonders aloud where his sons are and the girl insists that they are already there. And by that she meant that they were dead, carved up and baked into the pie that Frey was just about to tuck into. A moment later the girl pulls off her face, revealing Arya Stark, getting revenge at last. After a nice little vengence speech, Arya slices open Walder Frey’s throat, much like how Black Walder murdered Arya’s mother.

Daenerys! Daenerys has finally set sail for Westeros. Six seasons we’ve waited for this and now it’s actually happening. Only without Ser Jorah Mormont or Daario Naharis at Dany’s side.  The big question on everyone’s lips is: When the heck did Varys get back? I also asked myself this question, and from online comments I’ve managed to understand that the last few scenes take place a while after the preceding ones. Varys manages to travel from Dorne back to Meereen, Jaime travels from Riverrun to Kings Landing, and Arya travels from Braavos to the Twins. My only problem with this theory is that Dany and Tyrion are talking about setting sail with no Varys in sight or mentioned. It’s assumed (at least by me) that Dany sets sail very soon after this conversation. I guess I’ll just have to put it down to some confusing editing and move on.