Review — Yesterday

Alright. Time to review a movie I watched a month and a half ago. Let’s see if I remember anything? I will state two things before I start, though. The first is the obligatory “I won’t spoil anything” comment, as I always leave the spoiler section of the review till the end in a very clear distinction. The second is that in all honesty, I still am not sure how I feel about this movie. It touched at a lot of things that are still quite subconscious in my head, both good and bad.

The first thing I should point out is that the plot is nothing to write home about. The “call to action” as it were is ludicrous and is waived off pretty quick because, let’s face it, this movie is about The Beatles, not the story (apparently). Sort of related to this is the fact that the trailers did not do a very good job setting the movie up as a Rom-Com, when that ends up being nearly 100% of the screen time. I wasn’t surprised, but it did disappoint me a bit. After all, shouldn’t this movie be about… The Beatles? (See above.)

Apart from the standard plot, the characters and themes aren’t really explored very much at all. The people ‘on stage’ are painted in broad strokes and aren’t really touched ever again, and the only two people that ever show any real emotion are the leads. It’s like you gave an artist a coloring book and they spent hours shading in all the detail of the clothes, but then when they got to the background they just used a blur of primary colors. (A bit of hyperbole here, though. The lead characters don’t have nearly that much attention to detail.)

What makes it good, though? Well, to put it simply, the movie tries to do one thing: to live in the nostalgia of the majesty of Beatlemania, and reminisce about how great a lot of their songs were while having fun along the way. It accomplishes that. It does a phenomenal job, even. The fact that the group put out so much iconic music means that the writers could put in the perfect song to fit every scene, and the vibe of every piece of music hits dead on the money. On that principle alone, the movie is fantastic. It pumps you up with energy when you need it and lets the somber numbers soothe the pacing in between.

Now that said, will somebody who doesn’t know the Beatles enjoy it? I think it’s tough to say, but either way, they won’t get nearly as much out of the movie as a Beatles fan would, because they aren’t the target audience.

Alright. Spoilers ahead.

To further elaborate on my point that the plot is pretty weak, I’ll say that they missed a lot of opportunities. They don’t even try to explain what happened when the global blackout happened, or even why it happened. The other two people that remember The Beatles could (and should) have at least provided some insight, as the three of them could have all had similar stories, but we never get any explanation as to why they know, when Jack had to get hit by a bus to remember. On top of this, they touch on the idea of Jack’s impostor syndrome, but in reality, he would feel it to a scale nobody has ever felt before, so I would have liked to see the movie punch that up more. Plus, the fact that Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were actively teased in both the trailer and the movie without them actually having a cameo bothered me. That felt like a really dirty move.

What I would have loved to see, and the biggest disappointment I had in the movie (beyond the fact that it was actually a Rom-Com), was that this movie could have easily retold the story of how Beatlemania happened in real life. The Beatles go to Germany, are very popular, go to America and transform music entirely, the music changes who they are, they grow apart, etc. You translate Brian Epstein into the evil agent lady (already don’t remember her name) and fit “The Beatles break up” to instead be “Jack gives up being a star” and bam, your movie is already written. You could even still make the Rom-Com the main genre, but more parallels to the actual lives of The Beatles would have been fantastic.

Also, I’m not surprised that the movie never explored this, but if The Beatles actually lived in this parallel world and simply never became who they are in ours, Jack’s story of “I remember a past that didn’t happen” is easily provable. All you have to do is have Jack tell the story of The Beatles, then track down the real band members, and see where the lines cross (or might have crossed). He would probably know so much about the lives of nobodies that it’s truth would be hard to refute. Again, the movie was right not to address this, because that would have derailed the plot off a cliff, but still. I can’t help but think of these things.

Lastly, the ending is… weird. The fact that he puts her face on the big screen and confesses his love to her, without being face to face, seems really odd to me. I mean, he’s not even confessing it to her, he’s confessing it to his audience. I always wonder how many people get proposed to at public events where it would humiliate both people for the girl to say ‘no’, but this feels like a similar moment to me. Ellie is standing in a room hearing the feedback of his voice and the distant roars of the audience, being told that that Jack apparently loves him. That doesn’t strike me as the killer finale this movie deserves, though of course it wasn’t painted that way. In addition to that, there is no way the audience would clear out of the stadium before Jack’s agent managed to find him. She would have been cutting the mics and tackled him within minutes of him rescinding his fame, which I have no doubt he would have been sued horrendously for in the real world. (Jack “loving” Ellie is a load of crap, by the way, because if he is surprised when she first confesses her love, then that means he really had no interest in her, and I do not for one second believe that anyone can develop romantic interest in somebody they’ve platonically loved for years.)

That’s about it. Is it a good movie? Well, sort of. It does what it wants to do and absolutely nothing else. I will leave off with this, though. I do not like romance in virtually any storytelling. It’s always a hard sell for me because most often, it ends up feeling unearned or contrived, and Yesterday is no exception. This movie was particularly offensive in that regard in the fact that Ellie’s character struck a lot of chords with me, as she reminded me a lot of somebody that was/is very dear to me, and I wish that that was not the case.

Review — Blithedale Romance

Next on the list of books I had to read for one of my classes was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Blithedale Romance. Now, many of us had to read The Scarlet Letter during their high school career, and to this day I would refer to it as one of the worst books I’ve ever had to read. When I was going through it over the summer, I had to read the sparknotes after every chapter I read simply because I couldn’t understand what I had just read. Granted, Hawthorne’s writing is the better part of two centuries old at this point, so it shouldn’t be much of a surprise, but I can’t tell how much good it could possibly do to read something they can’t comprehend.

But that’s a tangent we won’t get into. You can tell how much I was loath to pick this book up, having hated his supposedly “best” work already. If I had already experience the best thing he had to offer and hated it, how could I possibly enjoy this one, specially since The Scarlet Letter was published first?

But as it so happens, The Blithedale Romance actually wasn’t that bad. Perhaps it could be attributed to how different the teachers are in both classes (the one I have now is a blast to listen to), but I really think the book is actually a decent read in today’s culture, at least as far as old literature goes. I wouldn’t recommend it over any of today’s writings as far as reading for pleasure goes, but if you had to pick any book written in the nineteenth century, I’d say you should pick this one up (if you haven’t read Frankenstein). (*Also I haven’t read Count of Monte Cristo, which was written at the time, but the movie is phenomenal.)

As far as the novel itself, it is, at it’s heart, a philosophy book. Hawthorne (and a great many authors during this time) brought about the period of romanticism and, more specifically, Transcendentalism (though he often viewed this particular movement in a negative light).

Such is the case with The Blithedale Romance. The main character, Miles Coverdale, and a few dozen other people, get together and form a utopian society outside of conventional, capitalist American life. They do it to break away from the flaws that the rest of society seems to have grown around, and seek to build something that will last forever and be heralded throughout the ages. But as the novel progresses, we see that none of the characters have the righteous convictions their ideals require of them.

As Coverdale states (bear with me here), “if the vision have been worth the having, it is certain never to be consummated otherwise than by a failure… It’s airiest fragments, impalpable as they may be, will possess a value that lurks not in the ponderous realities of any practicable scheme” (10-11). What the narrator here states is, essentially, that anything worth wishing for is impossible. All of our highest hopes for how the world ought to be are dreams that can never be realized in it. Thus, the perfect community of Blithedale is doomed to fail, and this is a state most readily attributed to the fact that we humans are flawed. Be it our core nature or the reality that is brought about by the societies we have all stemmed from, there is no perfection to be had.

Now, I don’t recommend this book merely because it is disheartening. No, the masterpiece in this book lies in the complexities written into each page. There is so much going on in this book, that (I’m told) every time you read it, you perceive it in a new light. In an initial reading of the book, the protagonist seems to be a cynic that joins a community to watch it burn. But a second time, we see that this character wants to believe that this ideal is achievable. In a third, perhaps we can see that all of his cynical comments are also a way to contrast the character into the world in which he is placed, further emphasizing how our wishes are unattainable? But the genius in it lies in the fact that this book was written with every layer in mind. In many scenes, we can’t rightly place whether a character is throwing out witty sarcasm, nihilistic perspectives, careful considerations (to see what how their friend will react), or if the character is simply going mad. This, my friend, is the beauty of an unreliable narrator done well.

So, no, this isn’t the best book ever. It’s hard to read, and anyone that wouldn’t consider themselves a well-educated individual would have a tough time chewing through it, but it raises quite a few questions about human nature and what we as humans can aspire to do and be. If nothing else, you can’t finish the book without having become a more learned (and obviously well-read) person, so that’s at least some encouragement. Can’t we seek knowledge for its own sake some of the time?

 

Review — Hope Leslie

maxresdefaultBeing required to read a bunch of literature for a lot of the classes I’m taking, I thought it would be prudent to write down what I thought of everything I read. Buckle up, because these specific reviews I will be hitting you with some knowledge. I’ll try my best to make it entertaining, as usual.

First on the list was Hope Leslie, a book written by Catharine Sedgwick in 1827 about Native American and colonial relations in the early seventeenth century. Around this time, the war of 1812 had just concluded, Jane Austen was writing her books, and this book published just before Andrew Jackson’s first term, which of course led to the Trail of Tears.

With this novel in particular, it’s important to establish both the time in which this was written in and about. To my knowledge, Sedgwick herself used this novel as a way to get people to be more sympathetic towards Native Americans. For hundreds of years they had been at odds with each other, and I believe this book was an attempt to shine a new light on their culture, and while clearly different from the original protestant society, they have been shown a grave disservice over the years.

But at the same time, the general public really wasn’t accepting of this culture. If Sedgwick had established that she was sympathetic and supportive of their cause, people wouldn’t have read it. So she had to dial back her views and make it a more subliminal message in a different novel.

In the first fourth of the book, the narrative focuses on the title character, Hope’s, adoptive mother’s household. Magawisca is a young Native American girl acquired as an ‘orphan servant’, and she explains to our sympathetic heroes that the colonists slaughtered her people. She provides a firsthand account of the dichotomy of what the children are being told versus what is really happening. She explains that her people are not peaceful, but her father abstained from aggressive action against the colonists until they knew their heart. One day they were attacked, and nearly all of her tribe was killed, leaving only Magawisca, her father, and her little brother, who was also staying at the Fletcher household.When Magawisca heroically saves one of the main characters from being killed, we see proof of her noble character. Clearly they aren’t all “savages”.

regbon_wa26From that point on, the story is told from the point of view of Hope, seven years after the act of heroism. We don’t see much of Magawisca after that, and the plot of the book becomes that of a love triangle between herself, her friend, and her adoptive brother (whom she shares no blood with). This being of the same time period, it reads much like a Jane Austen novel, forgetting a lot of the underlying plot regarding the Indians until much later in the book when Magawisca returns.

As far as narrative goes, I must say it’s better than I had expected. Having read Hawthorne, Cooper, and other writers of that era, I’m elated to be able to read this book without requiring a translation. It isn’t the easiest of reads, and I won’t pretend otherwise. Somebody gets struck by a bolt of lightning mid-paragraph, and the archaic phrasing of these passages sometimes makes you scratch your head and think “Did I really read that correctly?”

So, page by page I think it’s a decent read, for what it’s worth. Convoluted plot not withstanding (I still have no idea if there’s even a difference between the characters Chaddock and Cradock). The first fourth of the book is very different from the rest of the book, and it reminded me of the animated Batman movie, The Killing Joke, but it’s not as bad. I also hate stupid love triangles in books, which means that the main plot of most of this novel made me groan a lot, but at least it’s making me groan in exasperation rather than confusion, I suppose. It’s not a great book, but for the time period I would probably put it near the top. I’d read it over Scarlet Letter any day.

As far as the history of the novel goes, I’m afraid it didn’t hold up very well. It didn’t read much like her first two books, and perhaps it didn’t walk the line of sympathy for Native Americans well enough for people to catch on, but whatever may have been the case, the Indian Removal Act was passed three years later. Sometimes humans are awful, but is there any other lesson history teaches us?