Neil Gaiman has become one of my favourite writers over the years and I was happy to get my hands on this latest third collection of short trips into the weird, shadowy country of Gaiman’s mind. It never really occurred to me to compare him to Ray Bradbury, but in fact Gaiman’s short stories have the same effect on me that I had while engrossed in Bradbury’s fiction when a teenager – a pleasantly uneasy sensation of looking at the world in a distorted mirror, or lifting the fabric of reality to find some dark, strange, disturbing things lurking underneath. Gaiman’s imagination is just as boundless, and his voice as a writer is just as distinctive (his books on the whole have a lot more graphic sex, though not in this particular collection).
I had a week off work some time ago, so I decided to rewatch all three extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy back-to-back. Much like the movies themselves, it was an epic undertaking that started at around 9am and, with various breaks, came to the conclusion at almost midnight. I’m happy to say that they are still marvellous films and crème de la crème of the fantasy genre. I thought it would be fun to do a personal Top 10 moments from the trilogy and talk about the scenes or moments that, for various reasons, stayed with me the most. I also realised, when doing the list, what a huge part Howard Shore’s incredible score played in making many of them memorable.
This reboot of a beloved 80s classic is neither a comedy masterpiece nor a proof that Jesus died in vain, as some people’s reactions would have you think. After seeing it, it’s actually pretty bizarre that so much controversy happened over something that’s just a fairly average, perfectly corporate piece of entertainment that deserves neither big praise nor vitriol. I guess it has the pressure of succeeding as a female-led comedy blockbuster, which apparently every female-led big movie has to prove over and over no matter the past successes, which is irritating as heck but I digress.
Directed by John Boorman and telling the classic story of King Arthur, Excalibur is one of the finest fantasy films ever made and one of my favourite films, period. I didn’t always love it – in fact the first time I caught it on TV many years ago I actually thought it was one of the most ridiculous, stilted, hideously overacted things I’ve ever seen, and I suspect that this reaction would be fairly common. It wasn’t until later that I rewatched the movie and hopelessly fell before its dreamlike charm.
I finally watched this 80s children’s fantasy classic, which like many other 80s movies I missed out on account of having grown up in the last years of the Soviet Union. Because the film is now 30 years old, I was kinda prepared for it to be really really dated, but to my surprise it mostly holds up very well. There is one distracting sequence with the red feathery creatures which looks like a cheap 80s music video, and the painted backdrops are really obvious, but overall the effects are on the acceptable side of dated and Jim Henson’s old-school puppetry is simply exceptional, a showcase of creativity and wild imagination and that clunky tactile charm that you’ll never find in the modern-day CGI animation.
I first read this book when in highschool, and had only vague memories of it, so when I spotted it in friend’s book collection while housesitting I was curious to read it again. Turns out, I also forgot what a slab this book was – my friend’s deceptively small edition stood at mammoth 1,000 pages. That’s a long time to spend on one book, but overall it was worth the re-read.
The full title of the book is Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, and it’s less of a prequel and more like a complete re-imagining of the world known from the classic children’s story by L. Frank Baum and the 1939 Wizard of Oz. I wonder if at this point it got overshadowed by the mega-successful musical – I haven’t seen it but I imagine it reworked the hell out of what is ultimately a very pessimistic, even bleak, story.