Transformers: Age of Extinction

This blog is supposed to be about writing, but I feel moved to write about a film.  That film is “Transformers: Age of Extinction”.  And this is what I feel moved to write about it.  It’s one of the worst movies I’ve seen in recent times.  It seems to have taken the view, in all its extremity, that any plot element is justified or explained by loud bangs, blinding flashes and the apocalyptic destruction of vehicles and real estate.

My daughter and I, about two hours in, switched it off.  We decided that we had simply stopped caring who lived, who died, who got smoked, crushed, blown up, mangled or dropped from a great height.  In fact, we began to feel that the sidekick was rather fortunate to have been burnt to a crisp early on in the movie.

Chief among the many reasons for our lack of appreciation for this tasteless exercise in disaster porn was the mess of a plot.  It just rambled all over the place, without rhythm or reason.  Optimus Prime was abducted by someone who seemed to be hunting autobots and decepticons on behalf of someone else (never explained up to the two hour mark we watched).  This creature seemed to have something to do with the spaceships that killed the dinosaurs.  Chinese officials seem to figure solely for the excuse of blowing up a different city (Hong Kong) to Chicago., with the implication that the US was manufacturing its advanced weapons in Chinese factories (!!!).  And these are just examples of the ludicrous plot, and not an exhaustive list.

Unbelievably, this movie has a score of 6.1 on IMDB.  I can only say that, dear IMDB, our tastes have finally diverged.

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Good sentences

I suppose there comes a moment in the life of every aspiring write when their heart beats faster on reading a sentence that exemplifies, as they see it, style and elegance.  I often have this feeling when I read the Maigret detective novels by Simenon, and this is one example, from Maigret and the Ghost:

“Everywhere, even on the staircase, there were pictures, hung so close together as to be almost touching, and the best of them were to be found not in the drawing-room but in the Dutchman’s bedroom, a very dark room full of English furniture and deep, leather armchairs.”

(Looking through the book, by the way, for an example sentence, I’m struck by how much of it is dialogue.)

I sometimes play a game when reading a book.  When I come across a sentence that strikes me as particularly good (or, more rarely, bad), I think about how I would might have written it if it was my book.  So, my version of the sentence might be:

“The staircase was full of pictures, covering every inch of wall.  But the Dutchman kept the best pictures for himself, hanging them in his dark bedroom, where he sat in the leather armchairs and admired them alone.”

Awful.

Simenon’s prose flows (unlike mine), from one clause to another, each one effortlessly linking to the next until you arrive at the end, with a complete understanding (in this case) of how the Dutchman, a wealthy art collector, has distributed his pictures about his house along with something of his character (a hint of obsessive greed).  And all in one sentence of 47 words (in translation).

I recommend reading a book or two of Simenon’s Maigret series.   “The Bar on the Seine” or “The Friend of Madame Maigret”, for example, as well as “Maigret and the Ghost” (which I’ve just finished reading).

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What I’m reading

I’ve developed a very bad habit of reading more than one book at a time.  Sometimes, I have a book for different rooms: one in the bedroom, one in the lounge.  I’ve not yet had a book just for the kitchen (not counting cookbooks), but that can’t be far off.  Anyway, at the moment, I’m reading “Inkheart”  by Cornelia Funke, and Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.  Next on my stack is “Maigret and the Ghost” by Georges Simenon, one of my favourite writers.

Inkheart is an interesting read.  I’m about 4/5ths of the way through, and the big finale and denouement is about to take place.  I know, more or less, what happens.  I saw the film version not so long ago.  The book, however, is a little darker, particularly on the violence and cruelty of the villans (although this is talked about and discussed, rather than seen on the page).  Although the dialogue in the translated version (the original is in german) is sometimes a little forced, Funke is a good writer and I’m still interested in reading to the end.  Her characters are distinct, with their own mannerisms and ways of speaking, and there are clear conflicts between characters, as well as lies, and desires.

 

 

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Best opening line of all time…

From Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar”:

It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
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