Thoughts on Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them

Not long ago, I decided to sit down and finally watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. I was ambivalent about watching it because (1) I was never really a hardcore Harry Poter fan (mainly because I just didn’t catch the wave of Potter Pandemonium when it first rippled through America), (2) the previews didn’t get me very excited and, (3) call me a Debbie Downer, but I thought the premise was a bit silly. I mean a foreign wizard irresponsibly loses his magical beasts, adding trouble to an already magically-troubled America? (Great! Let’s give that man a visa!)

Despite these things, I understand that Rowling is a very clever writer, which I both appreciate and admire. That being said, I had to give it a try. So today, I’m sharing some of my thoughts about Fantastic Beasts, though I don’t intend this to be a full-blown review or summarize the plot in any way.

(Want a video version of this post? Check this out!)

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Books & Movies

Hey, folks.

As you probably tell by my inert progress bar, heh, I haven’t been doing much writing of late.  Not sure when I’ll get back to Project Element 7.  I’ve kinda just been pondering about…things.  My life in general.  What’s important to me, what isn’t.  And in my ponderings I’ve discovered something quite disturbing: I’m kinda sick of the Internet right now. *collective gasp* I no longer want to be on it any more than I have to.  Though, of course, it’s still very much a necessary evil.

Maybe that means I’ll also have to change my writing habits and somehow detach the Internet from it.  Hmm…

Anyway, back to what I was really planning on talking about.

First, the movie.

I went to see Hugo on Monday with a friend.  Generally, I really liked it.  Especially in 3D.  The movie didn’t make extravagant use of that feature, yet at the same time I couldn’t imagine watching it in the regular theatre.  Somehow, the 3D version just brought the story that much more to life.  You really felt like you were in this romantic take on Paris–‘k, ‘cept for the fact that pretty much everyone was speaking English.  Anyhow, the images were so clear.  You could actually see dust floating though the air.  It was a neat experience.

The pace was unusual, though.  Like in anime where they sometimes have those long awkward silences… But Scorsese’s silences were of the intentional kind, so for me it kinda worked.  It was still awkward in an almost Frenchy, quirky way, but that’s just part of the charm of the movie.  That said, I can see why a few reviewers criticized the movie for its pace, considering it’s supposed to be for children, too: kids may grow bored at first until the pace picks up some later on during the film.  With our go-go-go culture (here in the U.S. anyway) the use of negative space like this just isn’t something most kids would be used to.

Another point I’ve seen critiqued is Scorsese’s attention to (for some it may be more like “lecture on”) film history.  If you’ve ever seen Inglourious Basterds, you’ll know what I mean.  But personally I liked these bits.  Why shouldn’t filmmakers educate their viewers a bit on the history of film every once in a while?  I, for one, learned something new and found it to be entertaining.  It was all tied into the plot anyway, so it’s wasn’t exactly trivial stuff.

One last thing I liked were the child actors: Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz.  Asa especially said some pretty insightful things for a kid–though, I guess the credit goes to the writers for that, heh.  The whole movie was thoughtful.  It had its light, playful moments and its dark, brooding ones and was overall delightful, imo.

And I don’t know the name of the singer during the end credits, but she has a really nice voice.  And the fact that the lyrics were in French and therefore largely incomprehensible to me only added to the magic.

Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

…Oh, yeah!  I also watched Another Earth which I really enjoyed from an artistic POV, though from a scientific POV some may have one or two gripes about it… Also, Brit Marling, the main actress in the movie, wrote the story herself–which I thought was impressive.

Now, about a book.

One day I was thinking about how I never use the Literati my grandmother gave me for graduation and how sad that was, and I happened to be on Goodreads at that time. While there I saw an ad for an international bestseller called The Time In Between by María Dueñas (her blog is in Spanish, FYI).  So I figured, hey, why not buy that on my Literati?  Try to finish reading a novel on that thing. (So far I’ve gotten too distracted while using the device to get through an entire book. -__-)

The novel is actually pretty good so far (still reading it).  It has a simple storytelling style and does a lot of telling instead of putting the reader right there in the moment, but somehow that’s okay with me.  My inner critic was mumbling things about this at first, but the story and the characters are so immersing that eventually he just had to shut up.  Also, it’s on the longer side, over 600 pages, but that’s what I’m used to, heh.

Why is it an international bestseller?

Well, I could suggest several reasons, but I’ll tell you why I personally am liking it thus far.

  1. It’s got espionage.  Um…hello?  (I’ve barely scratched the surface of this element in the novel, though the threads are certainly being woven…)
  2. The supporting characters are great–a real strong point for Dueñas.  They’re all so interesting.  Especially the smooth and charming Ramiro; you just know right away he’s going to be trouble.  In any case, I’m really enjoying the characters.
  3. I can relate to the main character, Sira Quiroga, the daughter of a humble seamstress.  (Immediately, I thought this might be another Coco Chanel story, but…that seems unlikely at this point.)  After a few unfortunate life events take place, she decides to open up her own business sewing clothes for expatriates in Morocco.  Since I’ve been considering doing something similar with interior design, the story strikes a particularly resonant chord in me just for this reason.
  4. It explores a place and time in history that is uncommon to see in fiction–at least on this side of the world.  It starts in 1935 just before the Spanish Civil War (SCW) and trails into WWII.  Before reading this novel my only exposure to this locale during this point in history was in an art history class learning about Pablo Picasso’s Guernica and while watching Pan’s Labyrinth (set some years after the SCW, yet the story is heavily influenced by it).  That said, I find a return to this theme and setting of the SCW quite interesting.

There are other reasons why I like this novel, but those are the main ones.

So that’s what I’ve been up to–in the storytelling department, anyway.

How about you folks?

Watch any good movies lately or read any good books?

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously (Unless You’re Writing Something Serious)

I promise: this one is going to be short today because I want to get back to working on my story, heh.

So I Went & Saw Super 8.

Big deal, right? 😀

I’ve got mixed feelings about the ending of the movie, but overall I have to say…

IT WAS A LOT OF FREAKIN’ FUN.

You can’t really tell how much fun this movie is just by looking at the trailer, but trust me, it is.  It was also scary at times (I’m telling you, the sound effects had me going), and the kid actors were great to watch.  (Elle Fanning did an especially wonderful job, imo.)  I think I was reading a review on Rotten Tomatoes that said something like, “Super 8 reminds us why we love the movies.”  (Oh no, here it is.)

It’s true!

It was like this legit old school way to tell stories (there was a certain way about the stunts and characters), something I haven’t seen since I first saw The Goonies on TV (which, btw, was maybe six-or-so months ago).  The characters were so Steven Spielberg.  It was great.

And if you have no idea what I’m talking about then you are totally missing out!

What I Took Away From The Film As A Writer

It’s pretty simple, really.

Watching Super 8 reminded me of why I started writing this monster-of-a book: I wanted to write an adventure story that was fun to read and even more fun to write.  (I can only imagine how much fun J.J. Abrams had making that film with Spielberg producing.)  But when you’re kind of a perfectionist…sometimes “fun” can go out the window in pursuit of, well, perfection.

I have a bad habit of slipping into this mode when I’m not watching, when I’m working on the novel or anything else requiring serious effort, though it usually only happens when I spend less time writing the thing than I do thinking about it.  Once I turn on the conscious critic, it’s over.  Now, usually some really great ideas come out of these morose periods, and in many ways I find it absolutely necessary to go there every now and then, but the danger is that one can stay in this place for way too long.

Don’t let that be you.

You know what I do now when I’m feeling depressed about how far along I still have to bring my story so that it’s at that shiny place I want it to be?  I watch a really good movie–not read a good book (because I’ve come to realize that I’m too likely to get depressed, to be honest) but a movie.  I also listen to really great music, the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard.  I am a highly visual-auditory learner, so when I see and hear the best being played out before me it always reminds me of why I want to tell my own story, and by the end I simply cannot wait to get back to what I’ve been wanting to do all along: tell the best story I can.

I’m inspired by the best to produce my best.  I wanna can that bit of awesomeness, take it home, crack it back open, mix in some original ingredients and serve up my own greatness, thank you very much.

Of course, you can fall into the trap of always watching movies or listening to music and then never get anything done, but that’s true with just about anything.  In moderation, though, these things can inspire.

So Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

…or else you may lose your joy of writing!

Oh, and here’s the movie trailer for Super 8 if you haven’t seen it yet (ha!):

What do you do when you find yourself taking writing too seriously?