Tag Archives: Reviews

Why I Loved the Last Jedi and Hate Canons

Let the past die

The Last Jedi is proving to be one of the most divisive installments of the franchise to date. Pretty much everyone and their uncle has written a thought piece about it and I’ve decided to throw my hat into the ring as well.

WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

luke

He’s still just a whiny teenager [Image: Lucasfilm]

Aside from the fanboys crying over representations of women and minorities, a lot of Star Wars fans are upset at Luke’s behaviour, seeing it as out of character and, as I keep hearing, “not-canon.” The thing is, this is an official Star Wars movie. It is therefore, officially, part of the canon. Imaginary Worlds did an interesting podcast recently about the idea of ‘canons’ and how maybe we’re living in a post canon world. In recent years we’ve seen the dismantling of literary canons, those that include only white men, as media outlets have put out their own more inclusive and diverse canons. One of my favorite articles written this year, which I highly recommend reading related tangentially to this but was rather called, “20 Authors I Don’t Have to Read Because I’ve Dated Men for 16 Years.”

I understand the criticism of Luke’s character and maybe everyone is totally right. Maybe this aspect of his character development didn’t bother me because I don’t care about Luke Skywalker. The fact that Luke no longer thinks the Jedi should exist anymore after a brief moment of weakness didn’t strike me as wrong or odd, but rather fell in line with who I always felt his character to be. Again, Luke is the one character out of the original three who, while being the main focus, I cared about the least. I was far more interested in Princess Leia being a badass and Han Solo as the rogue. I was even more invested in the droids than I was in Luke. The thing that signified a departure for me was the reveal of Rey’s parents.

Rey’s Parents

As with most fans I spent a lot of time speculating about Rey’s parents after the Force Awakens was released. After all, the previous 6 movies are about family specifically the

Rey

[Image: Lucasfilm]

Skywalker’s and their above average abilities relating to the Force. When Rey showed herself to have such mastery over the Force without any formal training, it seemed to indicate a continuation the legacy, she had to be a Skywalker in some way shape or form.

Providing that Kylo Ren is telling the truth, the fact that Rey’s parents were gamblers who sold Rey to junkers when she was young is shattering in the best possible way. As is the final scene, with the young stable boy seemingly using the force to grab a broom while staring up at the sky. The force isn’t just reserved for the ‘special’ people anymore; it moves through everyone, including the defeated. Which is what makes the Canto Bight scene so important.

Canto Bight

Star-Wars-Last-Jedi-Rose-Finn

Rose Tiko was one of my favouite additions. [Image: Lucasfilm]

This scene, and Finn and Rose’s side mission was a point of contention for a number of fans. It did feel a bit clunky and again, the criticisms of this scene are totally valid BUT it was still important. Finn and Rose’s gallivant around Canto Bight underscored the dirty underbelly of the Star Wars Universe. The scene showed what the world is actually like for citizens of this universe outside of the main heroes and villains. This is one of the things that bugged me about the original movies. There’s an evil empire and a rebellion, but there aren’t any citizens; no unrest among the masses. Rebellions are driven by everyday people; revolutions occur when populations are oppressed for too long. (Something the Huger Games got right). The Canto Bight plot sets this up, while also hitting the audience over the head with it. There are people in the galaxy who are ready to rise up, they just need the spark to light the rebellion. They have that spark now, the rebellion can begin.

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Lawrence Hill – Blood (2013)

bloodHaving read a number of Lawrence Hill’s works, it is clear to me that Blood plays a prominent role in all of them. When I saw that he had presented, and published a series of essays dealing with the theme of blood I was intrigued.

Overall the essays are not groundbreaking, but they are presented in a very accessible and highly engaging way. The five essays are organized roughly by theme. The first is a general overview and personal account about Hill’s fascination with blood, the second looks at the connection between blood, truth, and honour; the third is about blood ties and belonging; the fourth deals with blood as power; and the last looks at the secrets that can be found in blood.

In each essay Hill brings together a wealth of knowledge with references to popular culture acknowledging wide held beliefs about blood. Overall I liked Hill’s treatment of the subject, and I liked his nonfiction much better than any of his novels that I have read. Blood is indeed a fascinating thing, and Hill does a good job treating it as such.

Rory Gilmore Update Number Five

Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with books from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

TimeTraveler'sWifeAudrey Niffenegger – The Time Traveler’s Wife (2003)
I read this book in high school at a time when every I knew loved it. I remember parts of it, but I don’t remember being in love with it as much as the rest of my peers were. It’s a pretty typical love story and I had thought that the time travel element would be really cool, but I was wrong. The time traveling was pretty depressing and, spoiler alert, the ending is sad. It was written well, and a good story if you’re into that kind of thing, but tragic modern day romances just aren’t really my thing.

Dan Brown – The Da Vinci Code (2003)DaVinciCode
Oh Dan Brown. I don’t even really want to talk about this book anymore I read it so long ago and there was so much hype surrounding it. It really is an interesting premise and a very suspenseful read, but it is also a work of fiction. All these people who got up in arms over the plot and themes of this book really just need to chill. It’s a murder mystery that uses some historical elements (some very well researched and some totally fabricated) to move the plot forward. Add in an Indiana Jones-esq historian and a sexy sidekick looking for vengeance and of course this book is going to end up on the New York Times Best Seller List.

GobletofFireJ.K Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2000)
Only two Harry Potter Books appear on the Rory Gilmore reading challenge, the first one and this one. Like everyone else in the world I love the Harry Potter series, but this book was not my favourite. It is however, the pivotal book in the series. It is in this book that the story gains an edge and loses some of that whimsical-fantastical-ness and really becomes about the fight between good and evil. While it starts out innocently enough, school is basically cancelled due to a inter-school tournament, at the end Cedric, an innocent bystander dies, and we’re all brought back to Harry’s reality. Life is not all about Quidditch and Butterbeer, Voldemort is now a real threat, not just a part of a ghost story. While books One, Two and Three, are almost standalone books, The Goblet of Fire does not have a neatly packaged conclusion. It is the beginning of the end which will be drawn out over the next three books (and four movies).

Rory Gilmore Update Number Three

Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with books from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

AnneFrank

Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl (1947)
Another book that I had to read in middle school before I was mature enough to fully grasp the gravity of the Holocaust. The beauty of this novel however, is that it introduces the Holocaust to young readers in a way that is accessible and easier to take than a lot of other literature dealing with the subject. It’s written by a teenage girl, probably around the same age as many reading her diary. As a young person you understand the tragic circumstances surrounding Anne Frank, but are also sheltered from the more nightmarish aspects of the Holocaust. All that learning will come later. Anne always wanted to be a writer, and she clearly had a talent for it. The tragedy is that we will never know what she could have done had she lived.

S.E Hinton – The Outsiders (1967)TheOutsiders
A timeless and classic coming of age story, if you didn’t read this on growing up, you missed out. Essentially a story about two rival gangs separated by socioeconimc status, the story focuses in on Ponyboy Curtis, the narrator, and his brother SodaPop. Hinton himself was only 15 when he started writing this book so the characters are very easy to identify with for teenagers. I also highly recommend watching the 1983 movie starring Emilio Estavez, Rob Lowe, Tom Cruise, and Patrick Swayse, and remember “Stay Gold Ponyboy…”

PerksofbeingwallflowerStephen Chbosky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower (1999)
A book that was relatively unknown when I first read it, but is now being heralded as a classic coming of age story. It is a very well done coming of age story following the life of Charlie through a series of letters written to an anonymous stranger. I feel like its one of those books that is so amazing to read in high school, but loses its appeal upon graduation. Thats because it’s about high school and when you read things like this, everything feels so relatable. (This book totally gets me!). Its a great read, but if your high school days are long behind you, I’d leave this one off your list.

Rory Gilmore Update – Number Two

Doing the Rory Gilmore reading challenge means reading works that are almost impossible to read, or works that you may not have a great deal to write about. Some are classics that don’t require a full page review. So here I have three short reviews of my experiences with dystopian futures from the Rory Gilmore Reading Challenge.

George Orwell – 1984 (1949)
1984I can understand the hype with this book. I get why Orwell wrote it and I get why it was so powerful and popular. Lately however there has been so much incredibly science fiction and dystopian futures published that 1984 feels like it’s lacking something. I know that it basically inspired the genre, but after reading things like Oryx and Crake I found I constantly had to remind myself that this book was published in 1949 and was a big deal at the time. Or maybe I’ve just grown desensitized to the thought of Big Brother. Don’t get me wrong, parts of this book are terrifying, namely the torture at the hands of the Thought Police, but I personally don’t find the idea of my T.V watching me to be frightening. With today’s technology, does privacy even exist anymore? Even though, I find it dated, it is likely that 1984 will remain a part of school curriculums for the foreseeable future. It is representative of a time and a place and maybe it’s time that we all concede that Big Brother has finally won and move on.

Ray Bradbury – Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
Farenheit451Despite the similarities to 1984 I really enjoyed this book, probably because its main message is about the importance of books. Its funny how Orwell and Bradbury, writing around the same time (1948 and 1954 respectively) have the same kind of idea of what the future looks like, both socially, but also aesthetically. The descriptive elements of houses, streets, cars, and the idea of perpetual war are almost identical in both books. As is the idea of a Big Brother type of government which watches the people’s every move. In 1984 this control is exercised through the thought police, in Fahrenheit 451, they burn books. Through his novel Bradbury reminds us of the power that books hold and the importance of knowledge in our society. Writing at the height of the Cold War Bradbury’s novel could be seen as being a critique of the Communist Witch Hunts and banning of books during the McCarthy Era. Even in our digital age, censorship remains a real concern, and Bradbury’s book is an important reminder about the power of knowledge and information.

Kurt Vonnegut – Galapagos (1985)
galapagosA dystopian future shaped and twisted by Darwin’s ideas surrounding natural selection. The narrator of the novel is Leon Trout, the son of Vonnegut’s recurring character Kilgore Trout. I like that Vonnegut does this with his characters, but that was pretty much the only thing I liked about this book. While the references made to Darwin and natural selection were interesting, I just didn’t really find the story all that compelling. Out of these three dystopian futures, this held the least amount of appeal for me.

Best Of – International Women’s Day 2015

In addition to Sarah Marcus’ Girls to the Front which I posted here on Thursday, there are a number of other fantastic books I read this year written by great women. In the spirit of International Women’s Day, I wanted to share my favourite female-penned books that I reviewed on the blog this year.

Margaret Atwood – Alias Grace (1996)

AliasGraceLooking at the notorious 1843 murder of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper Nancy Montgomery, Atwood imagines the events surrounding the crime by focusing in on the culprit, Grace Marks. She twists the story and even though Grace is the protagonist, the reader never gets full image of who she is. Through her writing, Atwood seeks to give Grace a voice and a point of view and does so in such an interesting way.

Jung Chang – While Swans (1991)        

wild_swans

It’s the true story of three generations of Chinese women living in China from the fall of Imperial rule to the death of Mao Ze Dong. The story is beautifully written with elements of both humour and tragedy as Chang recounts her own life growing up with Communist rule in China. It’s about China, but also about mothers and daughters and the enduring bonds that women share.

Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl (2012)

GoneGirlFlynn’s phycological thriller got people talking this year, especially with the release of the movie just this past fall. Flynn is a good writer, not great, but she does have this understanding of the “cool girl” syndrome, something I think all women and girls are familiar with. That men always want the “cool girl,” the effortlessly hot woman who doesn’t care if he all he does is drink beer and hang out with his friends. That ideal however doesn’t exist, and sometimes, that “cool girl” can end up being a psychopath. It’s a good book that will play with your head and test your assumptions about gender and relationships.

Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman (2011)

Caitlin MoranIt’s hard to love Caitlin Moran, she tells it like it is and makes no apologies. She writes openly and honestly about her abortion, something that I don’t think many women would do. She is smart, funny, and quick in her writing providing readers with sound advice and hilarious anecdotes about what it means to be a woman.

Azar Nafisi – Reading Lolita in Tehran (2003)

ReadingLolitainTehranIn this literary memoir, Azar Nafisi writes about her experience, as a teacher of classical English literature living in Post-Revolutionary Iran. She and a select few of her student start a “forbidden” book club which moves from being place for scholarly discussion, to one where these young women can share their deepest hopes, dreams, and fears about the future. It’s about books bringing women together at a time and place when circumstance is threatening to tare them apart. It’s a poignant and charming read about the lasting bonds of female friendship.

So there you have it, what are some of your favourite books about what it means to be a woman?

Steve Dublanica – Waiter Rant (2008)

Waiter Rant

“Hell is Other People,” especially for a waiter. Dublanica reiterates Jean-Paul Satre’s famous words in this blog-come-book, which details his experience waiting at a high-end restaurant. Nothing in this book really shocked me, and I like the conversational tone that Dublanica writes in. He’s funny with the perfect amount of self-deprecation acknowledging that he is guilty of being a terrible manager on more than one occasion. After reading this book however, I do think that I have an ounce more respect for waiters. While I am a solid tipper and have never made a scene in a restaurant, I have been upset when a waiter’s attitude wasn’t great. Steve Dublanica peppers his book with scientific data regarding surveys done on waiters, which often find that the mentally unstable are often attracted to waiting tables. While unsure shy, Dublanica attests to this by describing people he’s worked with as chronically depressed, or addicted to various substances. According to Dublanica, waiters have a hard time holding their life together outside of the workplace, and sometimes the cracks start to show at work. I’ll probably think twice now before simply passing off that waitress as a bitch.

This book basically furthers my theory that if every person were forced to work in customer service for at least one year, the world would be a better place. While I wasn’t a waitress, I did work in customer service as a ticket taker in a stadium for a summer trying to make extra cash. The venue I worked at had a strict no re-entry policy, and designated smoking area. The ticket takers were in charge of enforcing this policy, and therefore it was often a group of 20-somethings that bore the full brunt of corporate nicotine-craving rage. I now have an understanding of how much it sucks to have deal with other people in that position, and I generally treat those in the service industry with the respect I would have wanted to be treated with. If everyone worked in customer service, maybe we’d all be a bit more respectful.

Rating: 4/5