Posts Tagged ‘The Odyssey

29
Mar
10

What I’m Reading: The Lost Books of the Odyssey

As you are probably aware, if you’ve spent any time on this blog, I’ve got a real fondness for mythology in general, Greek mythology in particular, and the adventures of Odysseus specifically. I do consider The Odyssey one of the finest adventure stories of all time, and the assorted interpretations of that book have entertained me to no end. It wasn’t a hard decision at all to give Zachary Mason’s book The Lost Books of the Odyssey a try.

The book labels itself as a novel, but it’s not really, not if you define define a novel as a book length work of fiction. Instead, Mason gives us a quick read full of 44 alternate takes on the tales found in the Illiad and the Odyssey. As the writer notes in the introduction, before the poet Homer’s interpretation of Odysseus’s story became the standard, there were many versions of the story that were used, moved around, and toyed with by storytellers putting their own stamp on the legend.

This book purports to be some of those “lost” tales, and several of them feel as though they actually could be. “Helen’s Image” shows the woman who launched a thousand ships making a different choice, for example, and in “A Sad Revelation” we see an Odysseus whose wife Penelope has not been as loyal as in the classic version. Some of the other tales, “The Books of Winter” for example, take the framework of Odysseus’s tale and wrap it around a context that would not have been thought of in Homer’s time. More than one of the tales dips its toes into the realm of metafiction, making a commentary on fiction itself.  “Record of a Game” reinvents both Homeric tales as document about the playing of one of the oldest games of strategy.

If you’re trying to accept this book as an actual “lost” tale of Odysseus, it’s not going to satisfy you, but as an alternate take, it works marvelously well. The stories come across like Odysseus told through the prism of the Twilight Zone or Marvel Comics’ What If? series — versions of Odysseus that branch off from or exist catercorner to the version that we’re all so familiar with. I greatly enjoyed this book. It really engaged me, charged up my imagination, and got me to look at Odysseus’s world from a different angle. I definitely recommend this one.

18
Jan
10

What I’m Watching: 2010 Edition

Like I did last year, this year I’m going to keep a running tally of the movies I see. If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I’m going to place the permanent link to this post in the “Blakestuff” category running down the right side of the page. I’ll update this every so often, and whenever I happen to review one of the movies (either here, at Comixtreme.com, or even on the Showcase podcast), I’ll make the title a link. I am, in fact, a man of the people.

  1. Star Trek (2009), A
  2. The Gamers: Dorkness Rising (2008), B+
  3. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies (2009), B+
  4. The Man With the Screaming Brain (2005), C
  5. Re-Animator (1985), B-
  6. Soylent Green (1973), A-
  7. Igor (2008), B-
  8. Dug’s Special Mission (2009), A*
  9. Partly Cloudy (2009), A*
  10. 1408 (2007), B
  11. Pigeon: Impossible (2009), B+*
  12. Vegas Vacation (1997), C
  13. Cat People (1982), C
  14. Psycho Beach Party (2000), B
  15. Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988), D
  16. Planet Hulk (2010), B+
  17. A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002), B*
  18. The Wolfman (2010), B+
  19. Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010), B
  20. Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths (2010), A-
  21. The Hangover (2009), B+
  22. Surrogates (2009), B
  23. Silver Bullet (1985), D
  24. Paranormal Activity (2007)
  25. Ringers: Lord of the Fans (2005)
  26. Ink (2009), B+
  27. Darby O’Gill and the Little People (1959), B
  28. The Hobbit (1977), B
  29. The Lord of the Rings (1978), C+
  30. The Return of the King (1980), B-
  31. Clash of the Titans (1981), B
  32. Clash of the Titans (2010), D
  33. Iron Man (2008), A
  34. Office Space (1998), B+
  35. Meet the Robinsons (2007), B+
  36. I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell (2009), B+
  37. Hancock (2008), B+
  38. Fritz the Cat (1972), C-
  39. The Losers (2010), B-
  40. Kick-Ass (2010), B+
  41. A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1968), C+
  42. Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971), A
  43. Midnight Meat Train (2008), B+
  44. Plan 9 From Outer Space (1958), F
  45. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (2009), B+
  46. The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz (2005), B-
  47. Iron Man 2 (2010), A-
  48. The Grapes of Wrath (1940), A
  49. Cloak and Dagger (1984), C+
  50. The Odyssey (1997), B+
  51. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), A-
  52. The Pixar Story (2007), A
  53. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010), C+
  54. Richard III (1995), B-
  55. Miss March (2009), D
  56. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991), B+
  57. A Nightmare on Elm Street (2010), D
  58. Toy Story (1995), A
  59. Toy Story 2 (1999), A
  60. Red Dawn (1984), B+
  61. Day and Night (2010), B*
  62. Toy Story 3 (2010), A+
  63. Muppets From Space (1999), B-
  64. Jonah Hex (2010), D
  65. Monsters, Inc. (2001), A
  66. Zardoz (1974), C
  67. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), B-
  68. Predators (2010), B
  69. Laserblast (1978), F (MST3K riff), B
  70. Better Than Chocolate (1999), C
  71. Alice in Wonderland (2010), C+
  72. Inception (2010), A
  73. DC Showcase: Jonah Hex (2010), B*
  74. Batman: Under the Red Hood (2010), B
  75. The Beginning of the End (1957), F (MST3K Riff-B+)
  76. Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith (2008), B
  77. Let the Right One In (2008), B+
  78. Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966), F (MST3K Riff-A)
  79. I Accuse My Parents (1944), F (MST3K Riff-B)
  80. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (2010), C
  81. The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005), B
  82. A Wink and a Smile (2008), B
  83. Fame (2009), B-
  84. Water Lillies (2007), B
  85. Jennifer’s Body (2009), B
  86. Sex Drive (2008), B+
  87. Dead and Gone (2007), D
  88. Dead Snow (2009), A-
  89. Vampire Killers (2009), B+
  90. Netherbeast, Incorporated (2007), B
  91. The Zombie Diaries (2006), C
  92. Survival of the Dead (2010), B
  93. I Sell the Dead (2008), B+
  94. Saw VI (2009), B-
  95. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007), A
  96. The Wolfman (1941), B+
  97. Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (1943), B
  98. Werewolf of London (1935), D
  99. She-Wolf of London (1946), D
  100. Due Date (2010), B
  101. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010), B+
  102. Tangled (2010), B
  103. Tron (1982), B
  104. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965), A+*
  105. Prep and Landing: Operation Secret Santa (2010), B+*
  106. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964), F; MST3K Riff, B+
  107. The Adventures of Huck Finn (1992), B
  108. Tom and Huck (1993), B
  109. Miracle on 34th Street (1947), A+
  110. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970), B-*
  111. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974), B+*
  112. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), A*
  113. Frosty the Snowman (1969), A-*
  114. Tron: Legacy (2010), B+
  115. Gremlins (1984), A
  116. Santa Claus (1959), F; MST3K Riff, B
  117. A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), B*
  118. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), A
  119. It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), B-
  120. A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa (2008), B*
  121. Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny (1972), F because I can’t give Qs; RiffTrax Riff, B
  122. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), A
  123. The Polar Express (2004), B-
  124. Love, Actually (2003), A
  125. A Christmas Story (1982), A
  126. Funny Games (2008), B
  127. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1978), B+*
  128. Destino (2003), A-*
  129. Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics (2010), B
  130. Superman/Batman: Apocalypse (2010), B-
  131. Waking Sleeping Beauty (2010), B
  132. Despicable Me (2010), B+
  133. The Crazies (2010), B-

*-Denotes Short Film

Last Updated on January 1, 2010.

22
May
09

What I’m Watching: The Odyssey

The Odyssey (1997)Actually, I guess this could also fit under the “What I’m Reading” category and, if I had one, “What I’m Teaching.” I’ve been presenting The Odyssey to my ninth-grade students for three years now, but this is the first time I’ve presented the 1997 miniseries to the class, and in fact, the first time I’ve watched it myself. All in all, it’s not bad.

This Hallmark-produced miniseries, of course, casts Armand Assante as the great Odysseus, my personal favorite of all the Greek heroes (as people who’ve read Summer Love have no doubt surmised). After ten years of war in the city of Troy, Odysseus makes the mistake of offending Poseidon, god of the seas, and is forced to wander for years on his quest to return home.

Considering this was made for television, the cast is pretty impressive. Bernadette Peters does a great turn as Circe, and Isabella Rossellini‘s interpretation of Athena is particularly strong. Of the immortal cast, only Vanessa Williams‘ Calypso is rather weak. Her delivery leaves something to be desired, with stunted lines that sound like she’s reading off the page. She’s definitely improved as an actress since this movie was made.

The human cast, though, helps make this movie work. Assante‘s Odysseus is great, with just the right mixture of wisdom and arrogance to get him in and out of trouble. Alan Stenson as his son, Telemachus, isn’t bad. Greta Scacchi as Odysseus’s wife, Penelope, is wonderful. She really nails a wide range of emotion going from despair to hope to love to cold rage. She’s a wonderful part of the cast. To my surprise, though, I was really impressed by Eric Roberts as Eurymachus, one of the boorish suitors that attempts to woo Penelope in Odysseus’s absence. Even though most of Odysseus’s woes are due to the machinations of Poseidon, the god only appears twice, and as a form in the crashing waves. Roberts is more human, more active, and really comes across as the main antagonist of the miniseries.

As an adaptation, it’s adequate. There are a few things that are left out that I wish had been included — specifically the slaying of the cattle of the sun god Helios. If you’re going to get rid of that event, which is the cause of Odysseus’ men dying in the poem, the filmmakers found an okay way to replace it. The real problem, though, is that it loses the aspect of the sailors’ deaths being their own fault. Instead of being punished, they’re basically bystanders who get killed to pay for Odysseus’s original mistake. It lessens the moral of the story, as it relates to the Greek rules of hospitality.

Other changes are easier to live with. The story of Argus, for example, is one of the best parts of the poem, but I can understand how it would be difficult to translate a parable about the loyalty of an ancient dog to the television screen. I cannot, though, forgive the fact that they omit the Sirens — one of the most dynamic and altogether filmable segments of the poem.

As a filmgoer, it’s just okay. As a teacher, I can totally recommend it to anyone presenting The Odyssey to a high school audience. It tells the basic story well, as long as you’re ready to bridge the gaps and correct some of the changes to the timeline. Plus, the fight scene at the end is really good and guaranteed to get the attention of a teenage audience raised on movies that make the first Halloween look like The Mickey Mouse Club in comparison. (Don’t worry, it’s not that gory. Just gory enough.)

19
May
09

Everything But Imaginary #308: Not-So-Modern Mythology

Some say superhero comic books are the “modern mythology.” I say, what’s wrong with the classic stuff? This week in Everything But Imaginary, I look at modern heroes and ancient myths.

Everything But Imaginary #308: Not-So-Modern Mythology
Inside This Column:

03
Apr
09

What I’m Watching: 2009 Edition

As I sit here in the New Orleans Airport, waiting to head off to Nashville for a conference on “redesigning ninth grade,” I thought I’d take advantage of the time to post the movie list for the year thus far. Like the reading list I posted yesterday, I’m adding this to the links on the right-hand side of the page for the sake of anyone who’s actually interested in that sort of thing. Now when you feel like asking, “Hey Blake! Have you seen Wanted yet?” you can just click on the sidebar. Ain’t that cool?

Also, like for the books, I’ll include a link for those movies I’ve reviewed.

  1. DuckTales the Movie: Legend of the Lost Lamp; 1990-B
  2. Futurama: Bender’s Game; 2008-B
  3. 24: Redemption; 2008-B+
  4. Death to the Tinman; 2007-B+
  5. Rated R: Republican in Hollywood; 2004-C+
  6. Batman Vs. Dracula; 2005-C
  7. Hamlet; 1960-D (Movie); B+ (MST3K Riff)
  8. Confessions of a Superhero; 2007-B
  9. Storytelling; 2001-C+
  10. You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown; 1975-B+
  11. You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown; 1979-B-
  12. The Black Cauldron; 1985-B+
  13. Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown; 1975-A
  14. A Charlie Brown Valentine; 2002-B
  15. You’re In Love, Charlie Brown; 1967-B+
  16. It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown; 1977-C-
  17. Howard the Duck; 1986-D+
  18. Quarantine; 2008-B
  19. Coraline; 2009-A
  20. Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder; 2009-B
  21. Friday the 13th; 2009-C+
  22. The Karate Kid; 1984-B+
  23. Wonder Woman; 2009-A-
  24. Watchmen; 2009-B-
  25. Wanted; 2008-D
  26. This is Spinal Tap; 1984-B+
  27. Judge Dredd; 1995-D
  28. The Gamers: Dorkness Rising; 2008-B+
  29. Primer; 2004-B+
  30. Sheena; 1984-C
  31. Persepolis; 2007-B
  32. Surf’s Up; 2007-B-
  33. It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown; 1974, B-
  34. It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown; 1976, B+
  35. Vampirella; 1996-D
  36. Tales of the Black Freighter; 2009-A
  37. Under the Hood; 2009-B
  38. The Norman Rockwell Code; 2006-B
  39. Monsters Vs. Aliens; 2009-A
  40. Once Upon a Girl; 1976-C
  41. Sesame Street Presents Follow That Bird; 1985-A
  42. Snoopy’s Reunion; 1991-B-
  43. It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown; 1984-B-
  44. William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet; 1997, C
  45. X-Men Origins: Wolverine; 2009, C+
  46. Star Trek; 2009, A
  47. The Phantom; 1996, C
  48. Vantage Point; 2008, B+
  49. National Lampoon’s European Vacaction; 1985, B
  50. Doctor Who: The Infinite Quest; 2007, B-
  51. The Odyssey; 1997 (miniseries), B
  52. O Brother, Where Art Thou?; 2000, A
  53. The Terminator; 1984, B
  54. Terminator 2: Judgment Day; 1991, A+
  55. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines; 2003, C+
  56. Terminator: Salvation; 2009, A-
  57. Nightmare Circus; 1974, F
  58. Day of the Dead; 1985, B+
  59. The Call of Cthulhu; 2005, B
  60. The Running Man; 1987, C
  61. Grindhouse Presents Death Proof; 2007, C-
  62. Partly Cloudy; 2009, B+
  63. Up; 2009, A
  64. Across the Universe; 2007, C
  65. Tropic Thunder; 2008, B
  66. Good Luck Chuck; 2007, C+
  67. The Hangover; 2009, B+
  68. TransFormers; 2007, B
  69. TransFormers: Revenge of the Fallen; 2009, B-
  70. My Cousin Vinnie; 1992, A
  71. 1776; 1972, A+
  72. The Rocketeer; 1993, A-
  73. Independence Day; 1996, B+
  74. Short Cuts; 1993, D
  75. Comic Book Villains; 2002, B
  76. Riding the Bullet; 2004, B
  77. Fanboys; 2008, B+
  78. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire; 2005, B+
  79. Chalk; 2006, A-
  80. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince; 2009, B+
  81. Push; 2009, C+
  82. Donald in Mathmagic Land; 1959, A
  83. He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown; 1968, B+
  84. It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown; 1969, B
  85. Charlie Brown’s All Stars; 1966, A
  86. Green Lantern: First Flight; 2009, A
  87. The Dark Half; 1993, B-
  88. Cashback; 2006, B+
  89. Flight of the Navigator; 1986, B-
  90. Justice League: A New Frontier; 2008, A
  91. Ghostbusters II; 1989, B
  92. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra; 2009, F
  93. District 9; 2004, A
  94. Ghostbusters; 1984, A
  95. Inglorious Basterds; 2009, A-
  96. Halloween II; 2009, C-
  97. Severance; 2006, B
  98. Daffy Duck’s Quackbusters; 1988, C+
  99. Countdown to Wednesday; 2004, B
  100. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen; 1988, B+
  101. Murder Party; 2007, B
  102. Hulk Vs.; 2009, B-
  103. Graveyard Shift; 1990, C+
  104. Saw V; 2008, C
  105. 9; 2009, B+
  106. Zombie Strippers; 2008, F
  107. Return of the Living Dead 3; 1993, C
  108. Superman/Batman: Public Enemies; 2009, B
  109. Zombieland; 2009, B+
  110. Toy Story; 1995, A
  111. Toy Story 2; 1999, A+
  112. Frankenstein; 1931, A
  113. Bride of Frankenstein; 1935, B+
  114. Son of Frankenstein; 1939, A
  115. Ghost of Frankenstein; 1942, C+
  116. House of Frankenstein; 1944, C
  117. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein; 1948, A+
  118. Trick ‘r Treat; 2007, A-
  119. Hobgoblins; 1988, F (movie), A (MST3K Riff)
  120. The Men Who Stare at Goats; 2009, B+
  121. The Time Machine; 2002, B-
  122. Animal Farm; 1999, B
  123. Planet 51; 2009, B
  124. Play it Again, Charlie Brown; 1971, B+*
  125. You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown: 1972, B*
  126. There’s No Time For Love, Charlie Brown; 1973, B-*
  127. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving; 1973, A*
  128. It’s a Mystery, Charlie Brown; 1974, B*
  129. Garfield’s Thanksgiving; 1989, A-
  130. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians; 1964, F (movie), B (MSK3K Riff)
  131. A Christmas Carol; 2009, B+
  132. A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa; 2008, B+*
  133. A Chipmunk Christmas; 1981, B*
  134. A Flintstones Christmas Carol; 1994, B+
  135. A Muppets Christmas Carol; 1992, A-
  136. Mickey’s Christmas Carol; 1983, A*
  137. The Small One; 1978, A*
  138. Pluto’s Christmas Tree; 1953, A*
  139. Santa’s Workshop; 1932, A*
  140. Prep and Landing; 2009, A-*
  141. Frosty’s Winter Wonderland; 1976, B+*
  142. Cranberry Christmas; 2009, B-*
  143. Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July; 1979, B-
  144. A Charlie Brown Christmas; 1965, A+*
  145. It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown; 1992, B*
  146. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales; 2002, B-*
  147. I Want a Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown; 2003, B+*
  148. Happy New Year, Charlie Brown; 1985, A-*
  149. The Princess and the Frog; 2009, A
  150. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; 1964, A*
  151. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; 1989, A+
  152. Hogfather; 2006, B+
  153. Home Alone; 1990, B
  154. ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas; 1974, B+*
  155. Elf; 2003, B
  156. A Christmas Story; 1983, A+
  157. Avatar; 2009, D+
  158. Night of the Creeps; 1986, C
  159. Dave Barry’s Complete Guide to Guys; 2005, B
  160. Sherlock Holmes; 2009, B

Last Updated on December 31, 2009




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