Monday, December 31, 2018

Fire and Blood part 1, Bird Box, and other conspiracy theories

Fire and Blood by George R. R. Martin

This is a book for fans of A Song of Ice and Fire and/or Game of Thrones who are looking for a slightly more long-winded historical account of the Targaryen family. Basically, me. So far this has felt like a very thorough, very "grievance-list" set of well-written family dramas. I've only completed about half of the 706 pages plus appendices, I had to rest it a while once I started getting confused about who was who and why they were pissed at each other--I mean the family tree appendix helps but damn, there are so many Targaryens! I fully believe Martin wanted this released before The Winds of Winter simply because there are several little tricky situations that explain many of the issues that affect the narratives of the proper book series down the line such as the initial doom of Valyria, greyscale disease, general madness within the Targaryen family, stolen dragon eggs, and even a bit about the future of dragons versus White Walkers (in regard to the protective enchantments surrounding the wall). Like a couple other short stories about the Targaryen dynasty, there are several little Easter (dragon) eggs that true fans will no doubt appreciate---in other words, PAY ATTENTION and TRY TO KEEP UP.

Tell me this isn't a role for Charlie Hunnam?
Composed of the collections of the official "writings" of various maesters and septons, the book begins with the history of Aegon the Conqueror, sister-wives Visenya and Rhaenys, and how the family's dragons and descendants shaped the seven kingdoms of Westeros. What makes this an interesting experience, more interesting than the same basic narrative explored in A World of Ice and Fire, is the 2018-weary, self-aware format of the way the facts are presented. The old, fat, white men in power are still the ones controlling the information, but every now and then you'll get a little burn on a septon or maester who has written some vital piece of the story or given a summary or opinion on something where he wasn't physically present and someone else (usually the Targaryen's court fool, Mushroom) gives a different account of the events. Kind of a nice dig on how history in general gets presented, if you ask me. Hey! Were you there? Did you see that baby get pushed into the world? Did you hear the king say that to the queen? Were you physically on that battlefield when the drama happened? Actually no, but you have a big book of empty pages and a fancy golden quill, you could write whatever you wanted, absent of any real facts and people would still listen! How relevant!

Alysanne: Shall we see
what lies beyond the wall?
Nah, I'm good.
Also, in the spirit of being woke, King Jahaerys I's sister: Queen Alysanne. I loved this character so much! Challenging the laws that govern the continued caretaking of widows, no more primae noctis, winning over the cold-ass Starks in Winterfell, and PROPER DRINKING WATER FOR KINGS LANDING? Highborn empathy exists! Westeros's first true feminist, mother of thirteen children, dragonrider of Silverwing and all-around badass? YASS, QUEEN! I squeezed the book in happiness multiple times during these chapters.

Hopefully the last half of the book holds as many treasures as the first, although it seems really mafia-esque in its general vibe of decline. Stay tuned.

"If you take off your blindfold,
Bird Box, 2018, d. Susanne Bier, screenplay by Eric Heiserrer, novel by Josh Malerman. Starring Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich

Confession: Outside of So Awkward/Blessed are the Geeks, I never read or watch anyone else's film reviews. I hovered over a few Netflix reviews of Bird Box after I'd watched it already and at first I didn't get why all the venom, but after a few days I have a few statements to make about it.

1. Ease up haters, this is not a typical horror film (and it was probably evil cell phones that brought about the insanity, so that's even more for you to hate)
2. Motherhood has a large effect on how the events of the film unfold
3. The story is smart and emotional but Malorie needed to hold onto those kids better on the boat
4. The ending is perfect, I loved it (no spoilers)
5. I don't know what everyone else is smoking, I don't see gross effects of Botox or cosmetic surgery on Sandy, like AT ALL, I think she looked great

I can't say this film experience is positive, it's anxious and disturbing, but it's a interesting, engaging story. At the core, I feel like the issues are extremely relevant to situations beyond an apocalyptic chaos story and honest to how mothers make decisions. Do I lie to my kids and tell them stories about how things are going to be fine or do I lay out the truth, be a hardass, and prepare them for the reality of life? Are they scared of me? Am I being too hard on them? Do I dare imagine a life where they are safe? Matt drew a ton of fire last month for criticizing the parenting in A Christmas Story when Randy won't eat, and I share his feelings---true, we live in relatively peaceful times now with plenty of food but we've never coddled our kids and never will. This film made me stop and think about what I would do in Malorie's situation. In the end, survival > liking your mom. When times are tough, you harden up, end of story.

Other Conspiracy Theories (Resistance Through Cinema Film List)

Last year around this time I asked everyone for favorite conspiracy or political films to watch for the new year. Funny thing, I still have the list even though I only watched like five or six of them. The remains of the list include Arlington Road, The Fog of War, Fahrenheit 9/11, 12 Angry Men, Wag the Dog, Dr. Strangelove, The Pelican Brief, National Treasure, Enemy of the State, The Crucible, Bob Roberts, The Manchurian Candidate (which I'm reading right now), John Q, The Hunt For Red October, Conspiracy Theory, Zeitgeist, SHOWGIRLS (I mean, why not?), The Contender, Deterrence, Bridge of Spies, 13 Days, The American President, LBJ, Swing Vote, City Hall, and Bullworth. In addition to the Great American Read book list that I'm still working on, I'll give it my best.