[Untitled#1]

I hear my ribs creak as I breathe

In the dead of the night, the only sound

The day replays in slow motion,

the monotone duller than a monochrome painting,

Which in my mind’s eye is set on fire

Turned to ashes like the remains of a phoenix

And like from the remains of a phoenix, I saw it arise again the next day,

The same blindingly monochrome gold.

13 Reasons Why: On Snowball Effect and Identity

Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why is a book that is being adapted into a series by Netflix.

The story is about a teenager, Hannah Baker, who had committed suicide a week before the events of the book. In a series of cassettes she records reasons as to why she had committed suicide. She leaves behind the cassettes to the people she deems responsible for driving her to kill herself – thirteen people.

The story is narrated by one of these people, Clay Jensen, one of the thirteen people on the tapes. The story opens with him receiving the tapes and follows his narrative as he listens and reacts to Hannah’s story.

The book is well written, and events tie up quite perfectly towards the end.

Though the book seems slightly immature at certain points (this actually depends on the age of the readers themselves), there is a lot to take away from the book.

“The Snowball Effect”

“No one knows for certain how much impact they have on the lives of other people. Oftentimes, we have no clue. Yet, we push it just the same.” – Hannah Baker (Jay Asher)

This is one of the most insightful messages in the book. People mean no harm, but more often than not they do not acknowledge the fact that everyone’s unique experiences are what shape their perceptions and reaction. It is for this reason that people often react differently about the same thing. Unfortunately, people frequently forget the same, limiting others’ experiences to their own.

As Hannah narrates the incidents that were responsible for pushing her over the edge, the incidents she mentions seem very insignificant if isolated as single events. But the book builds the narrative carefully, ensuring that the reader understands that those events were part of something bigger that started out small but snowballed into a burden for Hannah.

“If only we could see the endless string of consequences that result from our smallest actions. But we can’t know better until knowing better is useless.”

Identity

The book deals with the topic of identity in different ways.

Hannah’s identity is a major theme in the book. The incident that starts the snowball effect creates a reputation that is in complete juxtaposition of who she really is, and everything that follows is a direct or indirect result of the same. It can be inferred from Hannah’s tapes that she desperately wanted people to know her for who she really was and not what they thought her to be.

“I wanted people to trust me, despite anything they’d heard and more than that, I wanted them to know me. Not the stuff they thought they knew about me.” – Hannah Baker

Once again, it comes down to what people think versus the truth, two completely different things most of the time.

Another aspect of the theme of identity, is a girl called Courtney. She is depicted as being very nice despite being high up on what they call the “social hierarchy” in their high school. Hannah, after having spent some time with her deduces that Courtney only did so because she wanted people to believe that of her; she wanted to be the popular, nice kid.

The interesting thing about this is that it is written in such a way that it evokes some sympathy for Courtney herself, not necessarily a bad and manipulative person, but largely someone who struggles with a moral dilemma while also not wanting to be different enough to completely be isolated from her peers.

Harassment

The book has depicted the psychological mind frame of a sexually harassed girl very well. It also shows how what is playful for a guy may not really be as playful to a girl; in fact, she may hate it (vice-versa).

The book addresses a range of circumstances and situations- party with drunk teenagers where a boy takes advantage of a girl being drunk, an psychologically abusive relationship, etc.

Suicide

The suicide element in this book is examined as something that is not impulsive, and that is a very rare type of writing. Suicide has been addressed as something that can be foreshadowed, and it has also been dismissed as an “attention-seeking” gimmick or even a cowardly act, both perfectly ridiculous ideas. The book also depicts that what one person may call “help”, may not be so for the person seeking it.

The book also addressess the after-effects of suicide and the impact it has on other people. (Although in this case, the reach of the impact is carefully and purposefully planned). The ending of the book, though not exactly a mind-blowing twist, does leave the reader with a sense of grim sadness, peppered with a warmth of sorts.

Logan: A Fitting Epilogue, Hopefully a Prologue

Logan, officially the last X-Men installment starring Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman as Professor X and the Wolverine respectively, is the darkest journey the cinematic Wolverine has faced yet (except having had to kill Jean Grey, of course). The movie is every bit as gory as can be expected of one with the titular character having claws of indestructible metal, topped off with temper issues.

The movie is a great blend of story, emotion, dark humour, action sequences and (surprisingly uncut) colourful language.

Logan (Hugh Jackman) is a tired old man (we have the make-up department of nearly 26 people to thank for presenting us with Old Man Logan and X24), with his strength deteriorating because of the the toxicity from adamantium, in 2029. He takes to becoming a Chrysler limousine chauffeur, in 2029. The mutants are all seemingly gone, except for the ill Professor X and his caretaker, Caliban, who are both housed in Mexico by Logan. X23/Laura (Dafne Keene) is entrusted to Logan for safety by a nurse, and the movie follows Logan’s mission of saving her from strangely-without-conscience authorities.

My favourite part of the movie is, without doubt, X23, played by Dafne Keen, daughter of British actor, Will Keen (The Crown, Wolf Hall) and Spanish actress, Maria Fernandez Ache (Also a trained gymnast). She is mostly quiet through the film (much like Laura Kinney of the comics) , but Keen successfully manages to convey her intent and feeling.

“[Keen] has got such powerful presence,” Priscilla John, casting director, says. “She’s got extraordinary charisma. She’s either going to be heading a huge international company, or she’s going to be a big star when she grows up.”

There are many moments in the movie where X23 steals the show from Wolverine (who for some small part of the movie, keeps falling in and out of consciousness), and it is a treat watching her shouting down The Wolverine.

“Such a nice man!” – X23 to Logan

Watching her slash people’s throats in a shirt with a unicorn on it, is particularly amusing, as well as her habit of taking things into her own hands when Logan won’t co-operate.

And Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart make a great team, both of them adding to the humour with their bickering.

“Logan! LOGAN! … I have to pee.” – Professor X to Logan

Despite the humour, it is heartbreaking to see Professor X so ill and helpless, and Sir Patrick Stewart does a brilliant job in portraying the severely ill professor.

The movie is a great watch, and in my opinion, definitely worth the hype and wait.

Why to watch the movie:

  • Dafne Keen as X23 is brilliant! Just the right amount of bestiality and innocence.
  • You simply do not want to miss the X23’s *calmly eats cereal* moment in the movie.
  • The movie makes you realize why no one but Hugh Jackman could have played Wolverine.
  • The movie successfully makes you cry and laugh a little, while clinging tightly to your seats.
  • X-Men comics feature in the movie, which I found highly amusing because it was a situation of glancing through, rather than breaking, the fourth wall.
  • The Deadpool preview

Why not to watch the movie:

  • You don’t not watch it.

Although a certain era of the X-Men movies is over, I do hope we get to see X23 again in a standalone movie. I know Hugh Jackman thinks that Shah Rukh Khan would be a great Wolverine, but why go that far when we’ve got X23. Director James Magnold is already willing to make another movie with her character in the centre.

 

Don’t Speak

Don’t speak,
You echo in my head all day,
Sparking fury of the high moon tides,
Till it threatens to erupt onto the sleeping city.

Don’t speak,
You have only hurtful things to say,
Your words suffocating my heart,
Till it splutters tears, that mean nothing to you.

Don’t speak,
Because my mind tires of your incessant complaints,
Of all the resentment and bitterness you harbour,
Of the apologies that follow every time.

Don’t speak,
It feels like a hammer driving a nail into a broken wall,
Like a chalk screeching across a damaged blackboard,
A voice I simply cannot bear to hear anymore.

Don’t. Speak.

The Other Thing About Moana

But (of course there is a ‘but’ isn’t there) this is the year 2016, famously dubbed as the year where everyone is offended by nearly everything. I heard a woman behind me in the theatre say “What kind of movie is this, encouraging children to run away from their parents if they are not being allowed to do something!”. Her children probably do watch Tom and Jerry and Chhota Bheem , which are relatively oh, so realistic!

Another thing I have heard about is cultural inappropriation. One of the arguments for this was that Maui was a “lithe, almost teenaged heroic demi-god”, who is portrayed as goofy, buff demigod in the movie, which apparently takes after the stereotype that Polynesians are fat (what about Moana, grandmother Tala!). There was also some kind of problem with the use of coconut as a primary resource in the islands, which also an “insulting steretype”. Well, if that was what grew on those islands centuries ago, then coconut was by all means probably staple!

There are also protests from the Pacific Island communities with banners that read “Moana is not a Disney movie… It is our grandmother, the Pacific Ocean…”. Firstly, I don’t see why the movie is offensive in terms of Moana (which means ocean, by the way) because at not point is she shown to be weak. In fact, I love the idea that a girl named after the ocean, was chosen by the ocean to save the world (although, a little narcissistic on the ocean’s part, I suppose!)

Another issue someone raised was that despite the story being about “browns”, the movie had been “white-washed”. The movie apparently still deals with “white problems”, and does not address the “brown problems”. I do not understand this, what is that even supposed to mean? On so many cultural levels that does not make any sense! How is a plot revolving around a Polynesian myth, white-washing?

Lastly, some people expressed disgust at what they called “white hypocrisy”, given the timing of the release of the movie; the protest of the indigenous people at Standing Rock (the Dakotas). They seem to need a brief lecture on the production procedures to understand that the movie has been in works for months and it’s mere coincidence that the release of the movie clashed with the Standing Rock issue. Oh, and the tribe from the movie and the native people involved at Standing Rock are entirely different peoples.

I do respect the people whose sentiments have been hurt, but it is important to keep in mind that it’s a children’s movie and not a documentary. Small inaccuracies that have the potential to be blown out of proportion are present almost in every movie, and therefore, reading too much between-the-lines is simply too exhaustive for the mind, and anything will seem possible (for instance, The Lion King could be deemed racist just because the villain was coloured darker than the rest; the simple explanation behind that is that the colour palette used for Scar consist of dark colours simply because it resonates a certain intimidating and wary presence).

Moana is a great movie, with a great message; offended are those who think too much.

The Thing About Moana

I watched the movie yesterday, and as always (maybe I am biased) Disney did not fail to amaze. A really big plus point is that neither of the protagonist’s parents died, which is a first for Disney in a while. And a very important thing to remember, please – the story is set, not in Hawaii, but in the Polynesian Islands off the coast of New Zealand.

The movie can be briefly surmised as the story of a girl who is born into a certain tradition (Moana must take up the responsibility of being the next chieftain of her village), that forbids her from doing something that seems to be calling out to her (namely, exploring the sea), but she does so anyway because the ocean chooses her to be the one to save her people from the onset of something that began with an action rooted in legends (the demigod Maui stole the heart – a tiny glowing gem – of the island goddess Te Fiti, thus triggering attacks from a lava demon, Te Ka, who is after the gem).

I found this to be great movie; the soundtrack was amazing, the script was witty and humorous, the visuals were mind-blowing and the subtext was brilliant.

The minds behind the soundtrack are Mark Mancina, Opataia Foa’i and of course the brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda. The songs are mostly about self-discovery, self-doubt and also the song which initially takes Moana’s mind off the sea. There were bits of songs in the Tokelauan language as well; although I did not fully comprehend the meaning, the songs are few of the songs that I loved listening to even if I did not know the language. There is also a pompous song sung by Maui, the demigod and a different boastful song sung by a crab-who-loves-shiny-things.

The dialogues and narratives I found funny as well, with just the right mix of emotion, humour and not too many unnecessary dialogues. They were just enough to pull in the audience, while ensuring that the story went forward.

As for the visuals, the trailers speak for themselves. My favourite bits were the goddess Te Fiti and the ocean itself.

When it comes to subtext, people have different aspects that they perceive; what I understood is the obvious “follow your heart” despite what your parents tell you. And also, Maui’s tattoos, which are medals of sort, appear only when he has earned them; this I think sends out the message that respect is earned through deeds that others consider as helpful/altruistic and not when someone does something they themselves believe to be a good deed. And of course, Moana not having a love-interest, but only the help of a friend speaks volumes by itself.

The movie is definitely worth a watch, even two if possible, but….

(Read the next part – two parts because that addresses a different issue and it’s not criticism of the movie.)

Of Fangirls and Fandoms #5 – The Evolution of the Craze

These are dangerous waters. There’s not much to this, but this deserves a separate post.

This is Phase#5, wherein the fan(atic) starts to get curious about behind-the-scenes of behind-the-scenes.

This begins with finding out some biographical details about the actor (the very reason it’s dangerous – it’s not about the characters anymore; it’s about the people who plays them). Then moving on to the show related interviews, finding them interesting enough to move on to every single interview. There’s also stalking on Instagram, feeling stupidly happy when he/she gets married (there are also some who get insanely jealous to the point where they hate on the spouse; but we’re not going to talk about the psychotic segment of the fandom right now) and losing it when they’re about to be parents (TWINS! If you know what I mean).

And don’t you just love it when real life imitates life on-screen? Brothers on-screen, and bestfriends off-screen; Lovers on-screen and off-screen (and when they break up, you die a little too)

In conclusion, this phase is when all hell breaks lose and you know the characters and the actors as if they’re your bestfriends.

*MY LEAST FAVOURITE PIECE, BUT NECESSARY NONETHELESS*

Of Fangirls and Fandoms #4 – Cultivation of the Craze

Once anyone is past the binge phase, there are two roads that can be taken – continue to watch the show once a week, when you are all caught up with the previous season or further cultivate the craze.

The cultivation basically includes fuelling the obsession that starts out very slowly. This means spending hours on the internet, looking for bloopers/gag reels, behind-the-scenes, making-of-whatevertvshow, watching deleted scenes, directors commentaries, etc.

In short, you might as well be taking an exam on the show.

I particularly enjoy watching what goes into the making of a TV show episode (or even movies for that matter), for me, makes it much more enjoyable, especially when I am watching it again (I always do; a tale for another day).

This is the phase when the TV show becomes all-pervasive (with me, to the point where I begin dreaming about the characters coming over for dinner; an alternate episode in some cases). Thoughts centre around the show all the time, and you wonder about the what-ifs and endings, and you can’t help but talk about the show. All the time.

I have had this phase with many TV shows, and people have often ridiculed me, but try as I  might, I could never tell them that obsessing over a TV show, which has its own fixed course of things, would never disappoint me. Even if it did, it would be easy to get over (unless the disappointment is at par with How I Met your Mother series finale)unlike the kind of disappointment that comes with people.

Decay

Exhaustion from an eternity
Resting in the crescents
Cradling tired eyes,
Once a sparkling brown
Now like the dirty sea.
Knowledge of the end
Writ all over her face,
But accompanied by a smile,
Uncaring.
Skin like paper,
Crumpled for too long,
Brimming with tales and scars
From another lifetime.
Voice so soft and gentle,
Filled with regrets
And of decisions,
Unmade and wrongly made,
Dreaming of a different life
With a different ending,
And the millions of unanswered
What-ifs,
So exhausted from an eternity,
That will soon come to it’s end.

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