Posted in Books, Movies

“Crazy Rich Asians” Series

In the spring, I finally got my hands on Crazy Rich Asians, Kevin Kwan’s 2013 best-selling book about Singaporean and Chinese millionaires and billionaires. It was a true revelation, as clearly evidenced by its wide-spread success, and the book is getting a film adaptation in 2018. I loved the book, it was charming and funny and gut-wrenching, with twists and turns and biting wit that kept me reading until I had consumed the book whole. Seriously, if you have yet to read it, you must. It is mandatory.

Image result for crazy rich asians book

One of the most interesting part of the book for me was the cultural immersion the reader experiences. Phrases in various east Asian dialects are interspersed naturally in the dialogue, cultural norms are clarified, and food gets the special treatment of elegant, sumptuous description that would make even the most picky eater salivate. This complete immersion into the culture of the protagonists would probably require a lot of googling, but the author has wonderful footnotes that explain phrases, events and honorifics that the average reader (such as myself) might find confusing. The author has a freshly knowledgeable voice, and delves into an intense social structure with gusto. I have a detailed and farcical culture of my own, which I barely understand, and diving into this book was a breath of fresh air, to be honest. It is a book in which one can completely submerge oneself.

I read the sequel, China Rich Girlfriend, which, to my great delight, did not jump the shark. A lot of sequels fail to live up to expectations, but this one was a standout. Kitty Pong, a morally dubious side character from the first book, is made actually sympathetic in the second, and lots of other new characters are introduced without awkwardness. Focusing this book’s main trajectory on Rachel’s family was the right call, as opposed to continuing on with Nick’s family drama, which remains important but periphery. Nick is much more likable too, his honesty with Rachel and their working as a team in this book is satisfying for those of us who were cheering for them. The dissolution of Astrid’s marriage was expected, while money does a lot in this world, it can’t fix everything. Plus, we love Charlie with Astrid. His unselfish love for her is what she deserves, especially when sudden success makes Michael into someone Astrid can’t abide. There is excellent foreshadowing regarding Colette Bing’s true temperament when we see the way she interacts with her family and her servants. The book ends in Nick and Rachel’s families accepting them (with the exception of Nick’s grandmother, who I think we’ll be seeing more of in the next book) giving them both an excellent foundation for marriage, based on strong support from their families, who have accepted the match, and in Rachel’s case, her presence in their family.

There is a movie coming out next year, of which I have high expectations. It is frustrating that there are so few actors and actresses who are Asian who have had the opportunity to be successful, but I anticipate that the success of this movie will make way for more media focused on Asia and Asian-Americans, a severely underrepresented group. In the mean time, I eagerly look forward to getting my hands on the third book, which will only make me hungrier for more.

 

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Posted in Books

“Fangirl” By Rainbow Rowell

You’ve probably heard of Rainbow Rowell (yes, that is her real name) YA novelist taking the world by storm, even if you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering her writing. She is the author of five novels, but Fangirl is something special. It was published in 2013, and I read it the summer after my freshman year of college. It’s about a young woman named Cath, who goes off to college with her twin sister and has to adjust to major life changes with this new phase of her life.  

Image result for fangirl rainbow rowellRowell writes dynamic, fluid characters who don’t conform to archetypes. A good writer can make you love a character, but a great one can make you identify just a bit with each one. Refreshingly, the main focus is on Cath and her sister Wren, not their romantic subplots. Fangirl explores the deep complexity of sisterhood, jealousy, feelings of inferiority, and emotional isolation. Their differences are explored throughout the novel, as we see them starting at the same university and living separately for the first time. The twins  experience a lot, and the ways that they grow and change make them better.  

Fangirl emotionally impacted me because parts of the story felt so true to my life. I struggled through my first year of college, and it was reassuring to read about someone similar. Cath didn’t always feel like me, but her experiences felt like mine. Cath has realistic burdens, from troubled relationships with her family to her desire to escape into a fictional world. As in reality, conflicts go unresolved. Not everyone is unscathed, but life goes on. 

Another reason this book is important is the portrayal of mental illness. Cath and her father suffer from different neurosis, and it isn’t simple, because illness isn’t pretty. There is no quick solution to their problems. Importantly, Cath is loved, despite her issues. She still deserves love. That’s crucial, because people think that if they show the part of them that is vulnerable and imperfect, they won’t be seen as worthy of love. Cath learns that opening herself up can be painful, but rewarding.  

Cath will make you laugh and cry in the same paragraph, in the same sentence. I was hesitant to read Fangirl, but I’m so happy I did. I promise, if you pick it up, you will be too. Rainbow Rowell in general is great reading, she has a few books for adult and some YA novels. Eleanor & Park and Carry On are young adult novels. Attachments and Landline are for adult readers. I have read them all, and I can say that they only improve upon rereading. I can definitely recommend all of them for discovering your inner fangirl.    

 

Posted in Books, Movies

The Lunar Chronicles Movie?

Cinder and its successors in The Lunar Chronicles have been a breakthrough in the last few years in the world of Young Adult fiction. Dystopian novels have been dominating the genre over the last ten years, but Cinder gives them all a run for their money. The books tackle race, mental illness, physical disabilities and differences, what it is to be human, and the laws of man and alien. A lot of YA books have been getting film adaptions, with varying degrees of success, including the very successful Hunger Games and the flop Divergent movies. Marissa Meyer, series author, has addressed movie rumors by saying that she no longer holds the movie rights, and that there is a script in the works. If done right, a Cinder movie could be a breakthrough for the genre, but casting could make or break the movie.

Image result for lunar chronicles

For Cinder protagonist Linh Cinder, producers or studios may definitely attempt to white-wash the role. Meyer has specified that Cinder has Asian features or is mixed-race, with dark hair and eyes. But, since she is not outright identified as Asian in the books, it wouldn’t surprise me if they cast a white woman in this role. I have no idea who could play this complicated and nuanced character, but I hope they cast her properly, as a person of color. Her love interest, Kai, is specified as Asian, and must be played by an Asian actor, but that hasn’t stopped LA before.

Image result for emma stone

All of the protagonists are interesting, complicated and full of life. The role of Scarlet Benoit could go to a lot of actresses, since there are a lot of white redheads out there. If they’re casting for level of fame, the obvious choice is Emma Stone, who could definitely play younger, though I’ve never heard her do an accent. I also like Holland Roden of Teen Wolf fame, or maybe Bella Thorne. Scarlet would be a challenging role, she has a lot of complicated emotional baggage and her life only gets more complicated as the series continues. I don’t have any preferences for Cress, although I think Evanna Lynch could be the right choice. She plays innocent well, and she looks like Cress.

In general, I don’t have a lot of preferences for this movie. I think, if it happens, it will be a big-budget franchise, and there’s a lot at stake. My only real concern is casting characters of color, specifically Winter and Cinder, who are specified as being POC. In terms of the male roles, there isn’t huge room for error. All of the series’ characters are fleshed out, but the female characters are more complex than Hollywood usually goes for. I think that this could be a step in the right direction, assuming no one screws up.

Posted in Books

Thoughts on “The Fault in Our Stars”

While I am certainly late to the cinematic party in terms of writing about The Fault in Our Stars movie adaptation, released to the general public more than a month ago, I HAVE A GOOD REASON.

                                                Augustus Waters John Green animated GIF

I have been a nerdfighter since 2010, and I wanted to see the film with my oldest friend, the one who introduced me to the world of Nerdfightaria, the books of John Green, and Brotherhood 2.0. So, yesterday, Tuesday, July 15th, she and I went to go see the movie. I’m not going to sugar coat it, I had low expectations of the film initially. I love the book immensely. I own two copies of the book, one of which is a signed from the first printing, a button, and two tFiOS themed tee shirts. I have read the book at least five times, and I believe it to be frankly genius. I have not been impressed with many recent adaptations of books I’ve loved, and I was underwhelmed by the trailer, so I tried not to get too excited, though I did bring a plastic bag of tissues just in case.

Frankly, I was favorably impressed. The adaption was extremely faithful, taking whole passages from the novel without sounding like they were shoehorned in. Like the novel, it has a really poignant tonal quality, a sad, sardonic kind of humor. Book purists will be very pleased, most of the exchanges between Gus and Hazel are straight from the book, as are all of Van Houten’s and Isaac’s lines. The film is well-made, in some instances movies that heavily quote the books they are based on come across poorly, but tFiOS is an utter triumph.

The cast is a sweeping success, Laura Dern as Frannie Lancaster (Hazel’s mother) is a standout. In such a small cast, there are several big winners. Aside from Dern’s flawless performance, Mike Birbiligia (Patrick, support group leader) is delightful, Nat Wolff is perfect in all senses of the word, and Willem Dafoe is phenomenal. While underutilized in such a tight movie, Birbiglia’s scenes manage to convey a lot of importance for the cancer culture Green wrote about at length in the book. Willem Dafoe does not play the reclusive Peter Van Houtan, his is Van Houtan. Every mannerism, line and facial expression seems to spring straight from the book, he’s simply brilliant. Nat Wolff, recently confirmed to also be starring in an adaption of Green’s novel Paper Towns, is a breath of fresh air. The rapport between his character, Isaac, and Augustus is perfect, and, like Van Houten, most of his lines are also from the book. The scene depicting The Night of the Broken Trophies is a shining moment for Wolff. He is also, in this writer’s opinion, pretty darn cute. Honestly, in moments he was far more appealing than Augustus.

The performances of the two lead actors are overshadowed by the brilliance of the rest of the cast, but Augustus’s eyebrows deserve a film of their own. At times Gus does gets a bit irritating, his vanity and pretentiousness comes across a little more grating on film than on the page. Shailene Woodley looks right for Hazel, she has this girl next door look about her, in the way she talks and moves. Both Elgort and Woodley are aesthetically pleasing and have a great presence onscreen, and their love is magical. Their ability to transition from playing siblings (in another book to movie adaption, Divergent) to lovers is impressive.

As is to be expected, some things that were important in the book that were left out of the movie, including the humanization of Gus’ family. We barely see his mother and father, and his sisters and nephews are left out entirely. Though the movie does an impressive job showing us their story, it fails to grasp some of the complexities of the book. Green has spoken several times about how the book chronicles the journey from strength to weakness, and we do see Gus’ strength. We see Hazel struggle to keep up, but there is none of the book’s foreshadowing of his recurrence, and eight days (or infinity) before Gus dies, he looks much the same as before, though in a wheelchair. There is one really great scene, when he calls Hazel from the gas station, when Elgort really shows us Gus’ frustration, his hatred for his sickness. But we don’t see him look too sickly, and though Hazel promises not to sugar coat their love story, some parts are left out entirely. The relationship between Augustus and his dead ex-girlfriend Caroline is left out from the film, a story which really highlighted the realities of the disease.

                          The Fault In Our Stars animated GIF 

The Anne Frank house scene, while meaningful, is not quite as touching as in the book, and also a bit weird. I know it’s a movie, but one simply does not clap when strangers, even disabled, beautiful strangers, make out. Even just watching other people kiss is weird. Also, strange French lady in the background, kissing in the Anne Frank house is not “cute.” I was talking to my friend about how that scene made us uncomfortable in the book, mostly because of the seriousness of the location. The Anne Frank house is essentially a Holocaust museum, and kissing at one of those would be considered a bit disrespectful. It just rubbed us the wrong way a bit. But we’re Jewish, and John Green is not, so we would obviously have different perspectives.

                                        Ansel Elgort Shailene Woodley animated GIF 

This movie further proves that the truth resists simplicity, as the movie is an impressive (and profitable) effort, receiving critical acclaim and raking in more than 237 million dollars, though it does not reach quite the brilliance of the book.

Green, Elgort, Wolff and Woodley did a series of very delightful interviews in anticipation of the film, which I would suggest you watch, purely because they are adorable and funny. There are some links below, as well as a link to the last post I did on John Green.

https://chamberofspoilers.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/12-essential-john-green-gifs/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJpaoELLhAM

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CZg1KFLJiaE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11wavAHn4cs

Posted in Books, Movies

Thoughts on Allegiant

For a long time, I resisted the pull to read the popular Divergent Trilogy. I had already been disappointed by The Hunger Games books, and I have read too many other dystopias that are good to waste my tolerance for the genre on a poor facsimile. However, I did decide to give the first book a chance. I read it, and found it to be very interesting and compelling, and purely for reasons of completion, decided to read the other two.

                                Divergent Divergent Movie animated GIF
Here we go!

While I found Insurgent tolerable and even interesting, it was really fast paced, which made it difficult to cram all of the character development Roth wanted to fit in into the novel. I read Insurgent and Allegiant back to back, which might have exacerbated the obvious and problematic differences in the latter. Roth’s explanation of “We’re all just rats in someone’s locker” falls completely flat. If you replace every time they say “science” or “genetics” with “magic” “voodoo” or “energy” the story would be exactly the same! Oh, by the way, your whole world is a lie. And all of the characters reconcile themselves with this pretty damn quickly! The dual perspective is a bit jarring, it’s a bit distracting from the narrative flow. It is nice to see things from Four’s perspective for a change, but he and Tris seem to think fairly similarly. The world Roth created outside “the experiment” doesn’t make much sense. How can so few people be rebelling with any effect? Surely someone remembers the countless other wars fought in the name of equality? My other problem with Allegiant is that I can’t think of it ending any other way. With most endings that upset me, I can just make up my own ending and be happy with that. But with the story that Veronica Roth was trying to tell, the ending she wrote is the only one that I can see. Of course Tris would never willingly let someone die for her, if she could save them and sacrifice herself. When Tris tried to die for everyone in Insurgent, she was saved, because she was trying to sacrifice herself for selfish reasons. But when she died to preserve her city and change the world that she had just discovered, she did something entirely in character with the person she had become. But it didn’t stop me from just bawling like a small child.

             2 Klebekah animated GIF

The problem is that Roth gets you very invested in Tris and Four’s relationship. So many people die in the course of the books, but Tris was the main character. We heard her thoughts and knew her deepest feelings, we connected with her. If she had not sacrificed her life for her brother, it would not have not been in character, but this is the story that Roth chose to tell. Tris and Tobias have their happiness but for a little while, it’s like teasing. They have so little time together when they’re just happy and get to be themselves. They’re always fighting a war that they were born into, and later a fight that they don’t even have ownership of. While I don’t think the ending is fair, life isn’t fair. Neither is death. Who cares? Tris did the right thing. She did the only thing she could. There was no ending to this book that had her live. Tobias honored her by defying his fears. He reconciled with his mother, and stopped the war. He did what he had to do, and so did she. The ending isn’t fair to Tobias, and I can definitely see him developing a drinking problem later in life, but it was the only ending. And, despite my grief, I have accepted that. Bye Casablanca animated GIF

Posted in Books, Miscellaneous

12 Essential John Green GIFs

While I have no official stance on the Gif vs. Jif battle, GIFs are one of my favorite new forms of punctuation. Most of the popular GIFs are cats or sports, but some of the most precious GIFs are of the fantastic John Green.

For the few who are unaware of John Green, a nerd icon for the digital age, he is primarily known for quotes from his books appearing on tumblr. These books include Looking for Alaska; An Abundance of Katherines; Will Grayson, Will Grayson; Paper Towns and, most recently, the New York Times best-selling The Fault in Our Stars. The Fault in Our Stars, commonly abbreviated to ‘tFiOS’ by fans, has recently been adapted for film starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, both also stars of Divergent, another YA blockbuster adaption.  John Green is a winner of the Printz Award, The Edgar Allan Poe Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and numerous others.

However, John Green is perhaps even better known on the Internet as one half of the “Vlogbrothers,” a YouTube channel  with more than 2.2 million subscribers. (As of July 2nd 2014.) He and his brother, the musician and entrepreneur William “Hank” Green, are the masterminds behind Vidcon, a yearly convention based on online video; the Project for Awesome (abbreviated to P4A) an annual charity project taking over YouTube for two days; and Crash Course, an educational YouTube channel that covers World History, US History, Literature, and more. The Vlogbrothers have tackled so many interesting and educational projects that just listing them would construct multiple blog posts.

Back to GIFs! John Green, aside from all of his other achievements, also is extremely GIFable. You’d be surprised. So collected here are the GIFs you need to express the full range of human emotions.

1. Hunger, or, alternatively, adorableness

John Green Vlogbrothers animated GIF

2. Winning!

John Green animated GIF

3. Giant Quid of Anger

Dftba Giant Squid Of Anger animated GIF 

 

4. Frustration

John Green Life animated GIF 

 

5. Anxiety

Esther Day 2010 John Green animated GIF

6. Terror

Art & Design Dftba animated GIF 

 

7. Sexiness (or an attempt)

Blue Steel Crash Course animated GIF 

<!– –>8. Public Drunkeness

Crash Course Drunk animated GIF
<!– –>

John Green Ok The Quality Was A Lot Better On Photoshop animated GIF

 

 

9.  Euphoria

Brotherhood 20 Dftba animated GIF 

 

10. <!– –> Failure

Yesssss Dftba animated GIF 

 

11. Happy Dancing

Dance Party Happy Dance animated GIF
Dftbyay John Green animated GIF

 

 

John Green Juries animated GIF 

 

12. Pride

Exams Hank Green animated GIF

Best wishes! Also, John was on the Colbert Report recently, if that’s interesting to you.

http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/full-episodes/fiofma/june-23–2014—john-green