Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dia duit!

I have begun (in earnest) studying the Irish language. I had puttered around with it in the past off and on, but decided to really give it a go. I am really enjoying myself.

Dd 11 says I sound like I am choking in the back of my throat. I need to work on making my CH sound more subtle, but still distinguishable.

The program I am using is imersion based, which means they aren't actually EXPLAINING anything, just showing pictures and saying ... something ... in Gaeilge. I have to learn to recognize what they are saying, repeat it, and (I hope) figure out what it means. It is actually working pretty well. Though, I do miss having someone spell out exactly what I am learning.

The pronunciation is the hardest part and I am sure I have a terrible accent. With time and practice I think it will get better.

It is nice to learn some of the language of my ancestors. It makes me feel like I haven't totally been disconnected from where my family came from, well, the Irish side that is. I don't know if I could handle Norwegian. ;)

Sla'n ! (How do you put accent marks using an American keyboard?)
That means Good-bye.

And, for your visualy enjoyment...
Dd 9 constructing her gingerbread (graham cracker) house back in December.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Movie / Book Review Time!

My husband recently told me, with a cute little pouty face, that his favorite blogger had not posted in a while. I told him Zirbert had a life and family and day job and everything, so not to be upset. He told me he had been talking about Palai Eboulethen. Yeah, well, I have a life and family and all that. Plus, most of my online communiques have been sent out via Facebook or, more rarely Twitter. Sorry this old stand-by has been a little neglected.

Book Slash Movie Review Time!

Recently I (and then two of my daughters, the hubby, and brother) read the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series of children's books by Rick Riordan. (Not kiddie-picture books. These were written for the Harry Potter, Chronicles of Prydain crowd. Perfect for my 11 and 12 year old kids, and me, who never managed to fully grow out of a rolling fantasy adventure.) I read the books before I knew there was a movie coming out, but recently enough to be delighted by the news.

Which should I start with, Book Review or Movie Review? Well, I could mix them together.

Both were EXCELLENT.

The movie took the usually shortcuts of leaving out some scenes and characters completely for time considerations, which I have come to expect and I do cut movie makers some slack for that. Still, the camp was cut drastically short and I really missed Mr. D, who did not appear in the movie at all. Also missing from the movie was Clarisse, whom I did not miss.

There were changes to the story that I don't understand as well, as they would have had little effect on the run-time of the movie. Why remove all mystery about who Percy's father was? Figuring that out was part of the fun of the first book. It added a touch of mystery. Oh well. I do suppose they would have had to extend the camp scenes in order to bring the mystery out and explain it. Still, that would have been a good thing. Characterizations suffered for the rush through slow parts to get to the excitement.
They changed the "law" from THE BIG THREE (Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades) SHALL NOT HAVE CHILDREN to GODS CANNOT HAVE CONTACT WITH THEIR DEMIGOD OFFSPRING. What is up there? I realize that the Law covered a series of books originally, but only one movie here, but still... The books were way cooler on this. Since when do movies NOT set up for sequels? That is pretty much standard practice now-a-days, yes? It is as if the studio did not expect the movie to do well and therefore made sure their story could fully be told in only one film. On some level I can respect that, but the extended story was better.

Removing the theft of Hades' helmet was a choice I guess I can understand, but I think the book made more sense. Maybe they thought it would make the movie too much longer (which I do not agree with) or they thought that the theft of another powerful magic/divine item/symbol would cloud the plot for viewers, which I can see them thinking, but also do not agree with. The multi-faceted plot to start a war with the gods made more sense than everyone trying to gang up on Zeus by getting his bolt.

The acting was passable where the main children were concerned. The girl playing Annabeth (Alexandra Daddario) looked so much like Tiffany Amber Thiessen, that if I didn't know Ms, Theissen was an adult now (having seen her on a few episodes of White Collar) I would have thought it was her. (Ironically, Miss Daddario also played a part on White Collar, though I never saw any resemblance between the two actresses there. Then again, I do not remember them ever appearing together.)
The boy playing Percy needed a haircut, but that is somewhat regrettably in style these days and can be forgiven, I guess.
Grover was fantastic. The Lotus dancing scenes were a treat.

The background children were a bit wooden. The campers fighting did not look natural at all. It was painful to watch. Again, if the camp scenes had been extended the director and casting agents might have paid more attention or been more picky. *sigh*

The adults were fabulous. Pierce Brosnan, always so debonair as a slick Remington Steele or James Bond, was WONDERFUL as the hairy, gruff, centaur warrior Chiron. Outstanding!

I would not have chosen Sean Bean for the roll of Zeus, myself. And I would have been wrong. He was amazing.

It was too bad Athena was little seen in the movie. The lovely Anna Kanakarides was wasted on a one-line part. Too bad. She was great. She should have had more to do. (The fake accent was unnecessary, though. I blame the director, not Ms Kanakarides.)

Uma Thurman as Medusa was incredible. When I saw her name in the opening credits I expected she would be playing Athena, or Aphrodite (who was woefully cut out of the film) but she was a treat as the slick and stylishly evil Medusa. Very cool.

I loved Rosario Dawson's Persephone. That character was so much better than the one presented in the book. Persephone has always been one of my favorite mythological characters. There isn't much written about her actual personality, but I had filled in the gaps with my imagination. Riordan's imagination was very different than my own, but the movie was more in line with what I liked. And leaving Demeter out entirely, if she were going to be like the book's version, was a wise choice.

There were parts of the movie that were really great. The CGI effects were very well done.
I have never been particularly impressed by the story of Theseus and the Minotaur, but after seeing the fight between that monster and Percy last night, I have to give that beast more respect, I would not want to meet him in real life.
The Hydra scene was an IMPROVEMENT on what was in the book. The Nashville, TN Parthenon location beats the St. Louis arch hands down for atmosphere that fits the Mythology-in-Modern times setting of the story. And the Hydra was ... (running out of adjectives) mind-blowing! Much better than a chimera and an echidna...oops, excuse me...much better than a chimera and Echidna. (I did really miss the "I am the Mother of all Monsters, not an egg-laying hedgehog! I hate Australia!" line, though.)

Despite how much I liked the movie, there was one glaring (to me) area where they fell down on the job. Blame it on my being a classics major.
Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, seems to have done his homework well when it comes to accurately presenting ancient Greek mythology. His acknowledgments include classics professors and I was not able to find any mistakes in his ancient facts as presented (even to explaining how the eternally virginal Athena could have a daughter.) The modern lives, facts, and circumstances are his creation, but still remain true to the personalities presented in mythology. The movie took all that and just washed it away for the sake of ... I don't know what.

#1 (minor complaint) How hard is it to have contacts for Annabeth and Athena so their eyes are GRAY instead of blue? If ancient bards and historians made a point of telling us what color Athena's eyes are, why just ignore it? (I admit, that is very minor.)

#2 No Cerberus? That scene from the book was really cute. Time, I guess. But the presence of the three-headed dog guardian is a staple when heroes are journeying into the Underworld. Could it be that the movie creators were afraid of being compared to Harry Potter? Yeah, well, that was inevitable, so changing the MYTHOLOGY to suit hypothetical critics smacks of insecurity. Probably the same insecurity that led to the removal of the Oracle and her prophecy / set up for sequels. Boo to the movie guys!

#3 The Lotus Eaters were not EVIL!!! They were, in fact, quite friendly. They had what they thought was a great life and had no problem sharing with those they met. They were not evil in The Oddysey and they were not evil in Riordan's book. The movie decided they should try to trap people. Why? To make the scene more exciting? Isn't a casino where all your dreams come true exciting enough? There are flashing lights and games and a roller coaster and dancing; why do you need villains?

All together, I LOVED the series and recommend it to any child (or adult) who likes a good adventure story. I also recommend it to educators looking for a way to get kids to read AND learn some Greek mythology. I recommend the movie along the lines of former statement, but with a cautious warning concerning the latter, thanks to movie writers apparently not knowing, or caring about, staying true to mythology.

10 out of 10 asterisks for the books **********

8 out of 10 asterisks for the movie (-1 for mythology revisions, -1 for bad sword fighting) ********--

For your visual number 1 fan. Isn't he handsome?