Friday, October 29, 2010

New Book: StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce


Looking for a book to get for the weekend--or to order for a Kindle and have immediately which is how I often do my reading these days? The one on my list for this weekend is StarCrossed by Elizabeth C. Bunce which was released earlier this month when I was in the throes of my horrible illness.  No, this is not a fairy tale release, but I imagine it will be of interest to readers here because it is fantasy and Bunce is a fairy tale enthusiast herself.  After all, her first novel was A Curse Dark As Gold, which borrowed from Rumpelstiltskin in creative ways.

A Curse Dark As Gold

The reviews for StarCrossed are great--really great--from standard review sources and many regular readers' blogs.  (Biggest criticism is for the cover so far. I imagine it'll be different in paperback although I don't mind it at all.)  It has also been nominated as An ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults. (So are Funke's Reckless and Jackson's Sisters Red and Shulman's The Grimm Legacy and Tomlinson's Toads and Diamonds which are fairy tale related. Congrats to them all!) Some are comparing StarCrossed to Megan Whalen Turner which is high praise indeed considering I reread her every 12-18 months myself.

Here's the publisher's description for StarCrossed:

In a glamorous castle full of Llyvraneth's elite, Celyn Contrare serves as a lady-in-waiting to shy young Merista Nemair. Her days are spent dressing in velvet, attending Lady Merista, navigating court gossip, and charming noblemen over lavish feasts.

And at night, she picks locks, steals jewels, forges documents, and collects secrets. Because Celyn isn't really a lady-in-waiting; she's not even really Celyn Contrare. She's Digger, a sneak-thief on the run from the king's Inquisition, desperate to escape its cruel instruments and hatred of magic. If she's discovered, it will mean her certain death.

But life as a lady-in-waiting isn't safe either. The devious Lord Daul knows her secret, and he's blackmailing her to serve as his personal spy in the castle. What she discovers-about Daul, about the Nemair, even about her own Lady Merista -- could signal civil war in Llyvraneth. And for a thief trained never to get involved, taking sides could be the most dangerous job yet.
Doesn't that sound like a great read?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Sleeping Betty Film Short

This has been around for a few years but I just learned about it this week.  And I enjoyed it, so I will share:

Isn't that just fun. I learned about it from MetroCinema which is holding a film festival that is including a Fairy Tales for All hour in Canada today. The fairy tales are overall more fantasy than straight fairy tale adaptations but I fully appreciate the salute all the same...

NFB Fairy Tales for All

Fairy tale lovers, young and old alike, will be charmed by this selection of animated shorts, including Molly in Springtime, awarded Best Animation at Banff World Television Festival 2010.

And while I was exploring, I found this one which is not fairy tale, definitely fantasy and really fun in a Twilight Zone but not scary sort of way... I was probably the last person on the planet to see it, but here it is just in case I wasn't.

Gingerbread Man at Google

This is totally random but it amused me for a few moments so I am posting it here for myself if no one else.

From Google show off their new Android 3.0 Gingerbread OS literally with video by Matt Tran:
Google in their typical cheeky fashion has given us a massive clue that they are preparing to release their new Gingerbread 3.0 OS. The company in a very subtle move, decided basically to erect a big 3 meter tall gingerbread man on the front lawn of their mountain view HQ.

You can watch a video of the Google team delivering the massive statue in a big white van, embedded below courtesy of Electric Pig. In the past Google has humorously used statues of sweet treats to announce their new products, such as a big frozen yogurt (Froyo Android 2.2), a cupcake and eclair. The video has cleverly been titled “We’ve been baking something… and it’s pretty sweet”. Very witty but by now Google’s front lawn must look like something from the fairytale Hansel and Gretel.

And, yes, I keep thinking of Google taunting, "Run, run as fast as you can, you can't catch me, etc." which is rather apt for a software program anyway.

And now part of me wants that Gingerbread Man for my front yard.

Catherine Breillat's Sleeping Beauty

Catherine Breillat's Sleeping Beauty is beginning to make the rounds of film festivals with not very positive reviews. This is her second fairy tale film after Bluebeard which I haven't seen either.

From VIFF '10 Reviews: Catherine Breillat's 'Sleeping Beauty,' 'Mysteries Of Lisbon' & 'The Autobiography Of Nicolae Ceasusescu':
Catherine Breillat is a filmmaker with enough talent and arthouse clout to get excited for every title, but "The Sleeping Beauty," now her second foray in to fairytale revisionism (courtesy of Charles Perrault's original incarnations) after her last film, "Bluebeard," is straining to hold any interest in the eyes of this writer. While impressed with the shocking, provocative and sexually frank "Fat Girl," one wonders exactly what she's up to with these films, and even if her heart is in it.

Dull, lifeless and nothing short of irritating in its pacing (the two films reviewed above breezed by compared to this, even with a brief 82-minute run time), there's really nothing to latch on to here, not even a titillating sex scene, though Breillat attempts several. Things looked bad right from the opening, when three beautiful, naked fairies appear a little late after the birth of Anastasia, thus resulting in her curse. She will die at 16. Using some bullshit unexplained wand power -- which looks laughingly bad, like CGI from the mid-'90s -- the fairies ward off the curse, but the girl must sleep for 100 years. Whereas "Bluebeard" (a film that is better than this, but still left me cold) has the narrative conceit of two young sisters interpreting their version of the story as they read it in an attic, here were just thrown in to a boring, lazy romp through the titular character's dreams until she wakes up and learns of love and sexuality. Hardly any of it works. So what's next? Catherine Breillat's "Little Red Riding Hood." No, "Cinderella"...oh, how about "Puss in Boots"? Hopefully not. Wake us up when she does something interesting again.

Alas, pretty much all of the reviews are similar to this one so far. When the high point for the reviewers is the female nudity--again referenced in more than one review--I know I am not in the target audience.
I am so much more excited about The King's Speech myself. I'm hoping it gets a local release soon in my hometown. 

Makes me want to pull out my DVD of Bertie and Elizabeth and watch it again.  I'm hoping this one doesn't go as Hollywood as Young Victoria did.  Although I thoroughly enjoyed that one--never doubt that--I still prefer Victoria and Albert. Oh, really, I love them all because they are in my wheelhouse.  The trailer has several cliches but the actors are so good and overcoming them that I am feeling very, very forgiving. But I also am enjoying BBC/Mastrpiece Theatre's new Sherlock, too, which I didn't expect.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

New Book: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark and Grimm

Tomorrow is the official release date for A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. (No, I don't know why it is released on Thursday instead of the industry standard Tuesday.) I haven't seen it yet--no review copies sent to me in other words--but the preliminary buzz has been great, so it's on my reading list.  In other words, it's being reviewed by most major reviewers and receiving starred reviews.  And I love the cover since that is the most I've seen so far.  It is wonderful!

Here's the publisher's description:

In this mischievous and utterly original debut, Hansel and Gretel walk out of their own story and into eight other classic Grimm-inspired tales. As readers follow the siblings through a forest brimming with menacing foes, they learn the true story behind (and beyond) the bread crumbs, edible houses, and outwitted witches.

Fairy tales have never been more irreverent or subversive as Hansel and Gretel learn to take charge of their destinies and become the clever architects of their own happily ever after.

Here's a teacher's take on it from Coming Soon: Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm by Moncia Edinger:

I’ve been teaching a Cinderella unit for decades now and always begin by having the class tell the version they already know, each child adding a sentence as we go around the circle. This telling is always dominated by the Disney/Perrault version, but sometimes as we get toward the end there will be someone who will, with great relish, tell of the stepmother’s bloody efforts to make her daughters’ feet fit the slipper. More occasionally someone else will know of those girls’ dreadful final punishment (involving birds and eyes in case you didn’t know). And, of course, the rest are completely captivated. Always, always, always they want to know that story.

And so this year, knowing of their fascination with this lesser-known side of fairy tales, not only will they get to know that story, but an arguably even darker one — Adam Gidwitz’s A Tale Dark and Grimm. As we explore the ins and outs of Cinderella, fairy tales, and what they are today I will be reading aloud this remarkable debut novel in which traditional Grimm tales are woven in and among new tales. Then, as always, the children will write their own stories. And as they do, it will be interesting to see how and if this novel affects their writing. Will they be inspired to try a storyteller narrator perhaps? A narrator that feels just like a kind teacher, someone who knows that this is a dark story with scary elements, one who warns and explains just as I would reading the story aloud, but won’t need to with this book because the narrator will be doing it for me? Maybe or maybe not.
You can read the first chapter on Gidwitz's site here.

Exhibit: Fairy Tale Art: Illustrations from Children's Books

Trina Schart Hyman (American, 1939-2004),
Grandmother, What Big Eyes You Have, 1983,
Little Red Riding Hood, 1983; retold from the Brothers Grimm.
Courtesy: The Estate of Trina Schart Hyman

This exhibit just opened at the Mobile Museum of Art--Mobile, Alabama that is--so anyone visiting the Gulf area might consider stopping by.

Fairy Tale Art: Illustrations from Children's Books

October 22, 2010- January 2, 2011

Fairy Tale Art features 59 original illustrations from well-loved classic fairy tales as well as modern variations on traditional tales. Traditional stories such as The Firebird, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Little Red Riding Hood will be included. The exhibition will also feature modern versions such as Cinderella’s Dress, Child of the Faerie: Child of the Earth, and The Hungry Coat. The artworks in this exhibition reflect a variety of mediums such as watercolor, acrylic, colored pencil, and mixed media. The magical settings for the stories are created by award winning artists: Kinuko Y. Craft, DEMI, Jane Dyer, Marilee Heyer, Trina Schart Hyman, Jim LaMarche, Barry Moser, and Susan Paradis. Fairy Tale Art offers a magic journey to a timeless, enchanted, dream-like world.

Curated by Sylvia Nissely.

Tour management by Smith Kramer Fine art Services, Kansas City, Missouri. The exhibition is made possible locally by the generous support of the The J. L. Bedsole Foundation.
I'm very tempted to make a trip myself over the holidays. This one might also be traveling to other venues in the future, but I haven't investigated...

On SyFy This Weekend--Red: Werewolf Hunter

This weekend brings us the second in SyFy Channels fairy tale movie series, Red: Werewolf Hunter.  From the little I heard the first movie, a Beauty and the Beast interpretation, was a bust but this one looks much more promising. The star, Felicia Day, is doing a publicity circle around the web in promotion of the movie.

From Felicia Day talks RED:WEREWOLF HUNTER:

Felicia stars in Syfy’s original movie RED: WEREWOLF HUNTER, airing Saturday, October 30 at 9pm/8 central. She plays Virginia Sullivan, a descendant of the original Red Riding Hood who is trying to live a life outside her family’s normal business of hunting werewolves, but runs into problems when she brings her fiancĂ© home to meet the family and he’s bitten by a werewolf.


On Red: Werewolf Hunter

Felicia said that the film uses the original ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ tale as a jumping off point to create a modern day story. While there are a few brief flashbacks to the original Red Riding Hood, Felicia said, “This movie is set in the real world and my family is tasked with keeping werewolves from the real world.” There is a struggle of family and obligation in the movie, and Felicia teased, “There’s a lot of drama and blood, too, which is fun.”

The film shot in Toronto and used a lot of cool locations, including a shanty town that was an old set that had deteriorated. They also used a very old house that was half-renovated and Felicia said the fight scenes there utilized every aspect of the home’s architecture. She called it a whirlwind shoot and said the cast and crew all worked well together.

Felicia said Red is a very dramatic, serious film with strong horror elements, but that it also infuses a sense of fun. She said that it sometimes goes over the top in “the very best way,” and used the arsenal of weapons in the film as an example of that. Virginia uses guns, knives, even a harpoon and other characters uses a kind of cyberpunk Tommy gun. She also said to watch out for all the weapons on the walls.

On the role of Virginia

When asked what drew her to the role of Virginia, Felicia explained it actually came at a time when she had already turned down two things because she was so busy writing season 4 of The Guild, but she read the script and it was right up her alley: “I was a huge fairy tale fan and I tried to minor in folk lore in college, but my dad said that was ridiculous.” She also said that it looked like a fun challenge because it is different than the roles she normally plays and she was flattered to be asked to star in a Syfy film.

According to Felicia, Virginia is more mature than much of what she plays and she had to work to keep her grounded. She said, “I have a perception in my head that I’m tougher than I look,” and she had to draw on that for this role. She thinks that she and Virginia share a desire to bring out the best in other people because both are deeply caring people. She also thinks both put others first.

When asked whether Red is similar to her Buffy character, Vi, Felicia said that Red “takes that idea of being chosen and shows the dark side of it.” Virginia is not comfortable with the destiny of being a werewolf hunter that was decided before she was even born, whereas Vi found herself in her destiny. Felicia thinks Mag, her character on Dollhouse, is more similar to Virginia.

Felicia trained very hard for the role and had a great time shooting the fight scenes. She said she loved “being able to run and jump on people and slash.” She ended up with a lot of bruises, but no real injuries.

Her two favorite scenes to shoot were one where Virginia is “completely disempowered” because it was fun to do such a dramatic scene and the finale, which had so much to coordinate.
So set your DVRs for this one if it interests you or if you are just a Felicia Day fan.  And on a side note, the SyFy channel has added Riese to their website, a steampunk series that has gotten a lot of positive buzz.  I haven't watched it yet, but it's on my list...

Tribute to Eva Ibbotson

Journey to the River Sea Island of the Aunts The Secret of Platform 13Which Witch?

Not strictly fairy tale related but she brought fantasy into the lives of many young (and older) readers. From Tributes to children's author Eva Ibbotson by Andy Hughes:

NORTH East children’s author Eva Ibbotson, whose fans include US President Barack Obama, has died at the age of 85.

The award-winning writer, known for her amusing and magical tales, passed away at her home in Newcastle on Wednesday.

My favorite part:

While working as a teacher in the North East, Mrs Ibbotson began her writing career in 1965 when she penned television drama Linda Came Today. Ten years later, aged 50, she published her first novel, The Great Ghost Rescue. She went on to write 16 children’s novels and seven romance novels for adults.

Her most acclaimed book, adventure story Journey to the River Sea, was published in 2001 and went on to win the NestlĂ© Children’s Gold Award and was shortlisted for the Carnegie medal.

I didn't realize she wasn't published until she was 50. Now I am inspired by another successful woman who didn't give up her dreams or followed new ones, perhaps...

A Company of Swans A Countess Below Stairs A Song for Summer The Morning Gift