Writing it down and weighing it up

If you want to write anything for publication or pleasure may as well get yourself a notebook or exercise book depending on how mobile you are during the day.

Using a notebook, Dictaphone, or mobile phone somehow, may be good for people on the move. For writer’s in one place most of the time, all of those ways are good, but a writer in one place may use an exercise book effectively.

The idea is to write, jot, or note down what comes to mind, your inspirations, your thoughts, that may become stories, poems, articles, and so on.

But not every idea is worth its weight in gold.

When I’m in a critical frame of mind, there are ideas I see in my external environment, or whatever ideas I’m engaging with, that I may dismiss.

But if I reviewed the product I would give it a chance.

At the end of engaging in the product I may ask myself if the idea stacked up. Even asking that question is slanted on the negative. If one has to ask it, what does that say about the product?

The lesson of that is some ideas are always going to be poor and some are going to be good.

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A rich, but also bleak, drama

The Color Purple (1985) is based on Alice Walker’s diary-formatted novel, about life for African Americans during the early 1900s in the American South. It is well translated to the screen.

It begins with teenager Celie giving birth to twins, their father is Celie’s father.

When she is older, Celie becomes the housewife of Albert (Danny Glover), who needs her to look after his household chores. Though Albert would sooner have married Celie’s sister Nettie because she is more attractive.

Celie, they say, is ugly, but knows how to work hard, and Nettie isn’t for “sale”.
A hard thing for Celie to take is when Nettie is visiting Celie and she’s thrown out of Albert’s house. The separation of the close bound sisters is raw.

The hard life abounds in The Color Purple. When I looked closely at the first half, it is bleak. Manhood and masculinity are equated with aggression and abuse to show who’s boss, but it leaves the women in their lives hurting and fighting for survival. Inter-generational sins of the fathers come down to visit the sons.

It’s not an easy watch in the first half, but shows people doing the best they can in a difficult world. This is someone’s story. This is real. But what’s inflicted on others is still unacceptable.

The meaning of ‘purple’, an intermediately colour between the colds of blue and the hots of red, sums up the first half. Life can be ‘blue’ or ‘red’, but in between is how one copes, it’s not flash, but somehow one gets through. It’s the ‘colour purple’.

But the second half is transcendent. Here’s the theme of having enough and confronting the abuse. Here’s taking a stand, here’s finding redemption. It’s also about coming to terms with God in their almost hopeless world.

As well, the second half broadens the scope of the film, to how black and white interact. Sofia, played with spunk and fire by Oprah Winfrey, comes out worse for ware, in her interactions with whites, but Sofia is not one that is easily walked over.

The Color Purple is rich in characters, performances, and delivers a redemptive story, but it also has bleak parts.

Whoopi Goldberg as Celie is outstanding in her subtle and nuanced delivery, Danny Glover is, as always, convincing, playing Albert, Celie’s husband by arrangement.

Great support comes in all directions, especially Margaret Avery as a singer who shows Celie affection for the first time and Oprah Winfrey storms her way through her role like a powerhouse.


The Color Purple (1985) **** Starring: Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Margaret Avery, Oprah Winfrey. Director: Steven Spielberg. Warnings: a profanity, domestic violence, and sexual situations.

Not Mozart the musical, but it does contain Mozart’s music

This is not a musical about the legendary Mozart, the man who brought the world the ‘divine’ operas The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro, and Don Giovanni, among others, but which are recreated in part in Amadeus (1984).

I know that some people liked the musical episodes in this film more than the story, but I am not in that camp. I appreciated the music, but enjoyed the story, the production and performances more.

It is no straightforward, sentimentalized bio-pic of the musical genius, who wrote his first symphony at age five (a fact which I forever remember in the extended remix of Falco’s Rock Me Amadeus.). Perhaps some inspiration could be leveraged from his life, but not in this film.

Amadeus is fiction, based on the play by Anthony Shaffer, that takes liberties about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and imagines his descent at the hands of another Austrian composer, who in history perhaps had a good relationship with Mozart.

This man, Salieri, is fictionalized as a rival in the film, who appears friendly and well-mannered but seethes with jealousy at Mozart’s better abilities and gifts in music.

Salieri was also disillusioned by Mozart because of his appetite for the seamier side of life, which according to this film was Mozart’s crude, rude and unconventional side, but Mozart’s music held a rare purity of sound, beauty, and skill, which came naturally to Mozart, a fact that confused and infuriated Salieri.

Salieri plotted Mozart’s downfall in a silently brooding and calculated effort to swipe the man of genius from his pedestal and put this “trained monkey” in his place.

Cold hearted snake Salieri was, his obsession to be the best consumed him though he would never reach Mozart’s heights. His confession to a priest comes after his suicide attempt, because of his guilt at doing the unthinkable, to rid the world of Mozart and another human being.

Yet his music is what Salieri connects with. It is flawless and remarkably skilled yet triggers Salieri’s base instincts, instincts which have nothing to do with Mozart’s music, but with Salieri’s nature.

In the end, from a bird’s eye view, God who bestows the gifts has no favorites.
This was my first serious film that I really appreciated—so have a special place in my heart for it.

Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) confession of jealousy and revenge to a Catholic priest frames the drama. It takes a while for Salieri to unleash his “demons”—in a sophisticated plot to kill Mozart (Tom Hulce) involving the ‘ghostly’ presence of Mozart’s overbearing father and the naïve complicity of Mozart’s wife (Elizabeth Berridge) who is susceptible to Salieri’s good manners.

Salieri’s passions had been simmering underneath for a good hour-and-so into the film during which Amadeus may be faulted at being too literary minded. However, Amadeus works, and production values and musical episodes are done to the hilt.



Revised version, original published Entertainmentnutz.com, 2000. Amadeus (1984) ****½ Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge. Director: Milos Forman.

 

Myth is the attraction of this fantasy

I have a soft spot for Krull (1983). It was critically maligned, and didn’t do big business at the box office, but the attraction of Krull for me is its purity. It’s centre of gravity is in the good, a substance somehow invisible, but tangible, and which energizes.

Krull is not the most professional piece of filmmaking, but it does have at its core the power of a good myth.

Mythical tones

Krull is like a combination of Excalibur and Star Wars, where medieval meets science fiction fantasy.

The planet of Krull has the hallmarks of a medieval setting, with lush country side, mountains, and desolate areas such as caves and craggy rock faces.

There’s armoury on the Slayers, riders on horseback, castles, kings, queens, princes and opposing tribes.

In terms of the influences of a film like Star Wars on Krull, there are laser weapons, a wise old man, a hero and a princess, and the influence of evil.

Good attempts to save the day.

The prince searches for a mysterious, powerful weapon, like the lightsabre that Luke Skywalker used, to destroy the beast.

It is also a myth of peculiar charm. It has its own lines of wisdom, philosophy, and ways, that make it peculiarly Krull.

The story of Krull

The story goes that a wicked beast roams the galaxy, seeking whom it may devour, with domination on its mind. The beast can change at will, and even appear to look good.

“There is no love in it,” says the film’s princess. This beast is a cold-hearted snake.

The beast lands on the planet Krull in a fortress. The beast’s soldiers, the Slayers, ransack a castle, leaving a prince wounded and his princess captured. With the assistance of a wise old man, the prince goes in search of his princess—who has been taken to the beast’s fortress—to bring her back, as well as destroy the beast. With the prince come a crew of supporters, one played by a young Liam Neeson, and another played by a young Robbie Coltrane.

The fighting scenes are a bit tinny. Krull is not perfect. But it’s still has that invisible touch. A wise and disenchanted widow, surrounded by a giant spider’s web, whose name only one knows, may be familiar, but its wrapped up in Krull’s invisible touch. The power of its myth is optimistic, positive, and restorative. With the rousing James Horner score, it’s stirring.


Krull (1983) ***½ Starring: Ken Marshall, Lysette Anthony, Freddie Jones, Alun Armstrong, David Battley, Bernard Bresslaw. Writer: Stanford Sherman. Director: Peter Yates

What one can deliver

Little things I pick up along the way…as I was reading a book, I stumbled onto a nugget of wisdom. The book appraised films for this or that reason and a reason a critic gave was personally illuminating. The critic said a certain director wasn’t prepared to go the places a subject or premise would naturally go. It clicked. If I am to write stories, write stories I am prepared to deliver on. Go to the places the subject demands. If I can’t go there, don’t write it.

Give a book a chance

As I was talking to someone about a Star Wars book I had ordered, which, by the way is a ” special” Star Wars book, the momentum of the conversation made me think about the Star Wars: Aftermath books I haven’t finished reading. So, I felt like reading them.

I was inspired, as per usual, but my rationale for wanting to was that I don’t like to waste and I like to finish the job, in this case not a real job, but finish the job metaphorically speaking. I had to finish the book. This despite the book losing its luster for me about a month or so ago. The lesson: when one has hit the wall with a book, give it some time, and then the wall may come crumbling down, somehow.

Liking serials not a fine science

I love the idea of a serial of books, the epical feel of a serial.

A serial is about the same characters in a long or short series of adventures. Even if the number of books is overwhelming, a serial’s “aura” attracts one to the whole package irrespective of how long it takes to read each book in a serial.

What is this apparent “aura”? What makes one buy a particular serial and read one book after another until the serial is finished, and then there is another book in the serial coming out to look forward to? Is it the cover of the first part? Or is it the covers of all the parts with a distinctive signature look? Is it the look of a character’s face? A special effect, perhaps? Or is it the title, like “The Adventures of Saint and the Leopard and the…” and so on. Perhaps something bizarre?

In the end it comes down to how one connects to the product and this is not a fine art or a fine science. It just happens.

I had a whole slew of Hardy Boys books. But I didn’t read them. The impression is what counted in this case. The appearances counted even as the reading of them didn’t. The mystique or “aura” of the serial mattered even as the series of book remained on the book shelf, unread. However, one can sit down and just read it, some day. To take the plunge. But whatever it was like reading it, serials will always remain mysteriously etched on my mind as something special.

A satisfying finale to prequel trilogy

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) is, in a way, predictable enough, but also attractive enough to get bums on seats–in terms that we know what will happen, but don’t know how.

The predictability lies in the telling of the story of young Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker’s fall from grace. Everyone knows the ending.

The result in Star Wars creator George Lucas’ finale of the prequel trilogy is effective in portraying a conflicted individual who concedes to the ‘dark side’ because of “lust” i.e. personal ambition and a sense of significance that can’t be quenched. Anakin Skywalker is never satisfied.

As well, Anakin is torn between duty as a Jedi and forbidden love for Padme (Natalie Portman) and his all consuming attachment to her.

The love story is the movie’s central soap opera along with Anakin’s trainer — a more mature Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) — trying to keep reigns on his apprentice’s impetuousness.

The movie seems to be saying that Anakin missed out on acquiring knowledge which in-spite of his immaturity would have given him wisdom and foresight and hold him back from being a mechanical dictator.

And there are other messages in the movie – adoption of children for those that cannot have them, faithfulness, loyalty, and friendship are all interwoven.

Your sympathies may be touched in feeling for the likeable Anakin who said as an idealistic ten-year-old, in The Phantom Menace, that what is wrong with the universe is that no one cares for one another. But Anakin is vulnerable, especially in his friendship with Chancellor Palpatine. Their relationship in Revenge of the Sith is crucial to Anakin’s demise, as Palpatine plays on Anakin’s lust for power and significance.

Depending on your level of commitment to the saga the viewing process could be emotionally strong, symbolically rich, and a wonderful tapestry of mythic storytelling.


Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) **** Revised version , original published Entertainmentnutz.com, 2005. Starring: Ewan McGregor, Natalie Portman, Hayden Christensen, Christopher Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, Frank Oz, Ian McDiarmid, Jimmy Smits, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew. Screenwriter: George Lucas. Director: George Lucas.