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My Top Spills and Thrills of 2015

Okay, so instead of a movie review for the newest instalment in the Star Wars franchise (which I am postponing until 2016), I am attempting to sum up this past year: the good and the bad.


It has been a year of huge surprises, stupid spills, and awful scares for myself and my family, but there were thrills to be had throughout. It all ended, with a bit of a bang, and now here I am. I see I am not the first to write one of these, but since I waited and just posted about my hopes for the coming year, last New Year’s Day, I thought I would follow that up with another review, of sorts, about how those hopes translated into one wild ride of a 2015.

First Day of the Rest of My Life

I say in that post that I am not a fan of resolutions at the end of one year, with the blank slate of a new year stretching out in front, but I did have a vision for what I hoped my year might look like.

Now that I can reread that post and see how I fared, I want to bring it all together.

This is how it’s done.

So I thought I would take a page out of this blogger’s book/blog and go month by month. Bare with me.


One of my first posts of 2015 was all about trying new things.

Speeding Up and Slowing Down

I hoped this would be a sign of things to come for the year.

I continued participating in something that matters to me, that is all about a subject near and dear to my heart and life. I would continue writing about awareness for equality and disability rights. This post was a kind shout-out to all that.

I Don’t Want Coffee. Here Are Some Links, Though.

This links to another blog hop I could participate in, if I had more time and more days of the week, but I read it weekly. I have found and left a few different circles of bloggers and blogging groupings over the last few years, but many of these circles intertwine with one another, here and there.

Speaking of blogging circles – January was the start of one of the best things I’ve gotten involved in in a long time.

We All Need The Village


1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

Thank you: Lizzi and Yvonne.

Also, it was a month of endings and beginnings.

Letting Go and Continuing to Write Another Day

The ending of an opportunity for the short story I’d written gave way for the beginning of a chance event, one for which I am so glad I snatched up my chance to be included in, in the months that would follow.


This, my birthday month, brought not only the day to celebrate my birth, but also the celebration of my first full year of blogging.

One Year and Counting: Kind and Generous

Then came

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

And after that, my first contribution of many for #1000Speak, there came more focus on kindness with a post I’d written, which was published on a site devoted to love and friendship.

A Friend In B By Kerry Kijewski

I continued to write about a vitally important cause to me, rare illness awareness

Rare Disease Day, 2015: Ventilation

There was a weekend in Ottawa with a friend. This I will never forget.

This year I took a step forward, in the right direction after lost love, and began dating again.

Dating in the Dark

This is my life.


This was not easy for me and I didn’t want to do it, but I did it and hope to do more of it.

Microwave Popcorn For Dinner It Is

As the year went on I managed to keep a secret that I’d been keeping hidden for a few months. It would involve the struggle I constantly have inside about the fine line between truth and fiction, memoir or not?

Truth Or Fiction: Which One Is Stranger?

The first of two weekly blog hops I would soon come to depend on for both comfort and inspiration began as the third month of 2015 came to a close.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday

And I finally published an interview, long worked on and awaited, with a female who is making a mark for herself as a smart businesswoman.

Keep Calm and Get Your Hair Done

There were three deaths this year, in the entertainment world, of which were sad ones to me.

The first was Richard Gilmore from Gilmore Girls. Edward Herman died almost exactly one year ago.

I did not write a post for this at the time, but wanted to include him here and now, with news recently of a NetFlix Gilmore Girls reboot, of which the man who played Mr. Gilmore will not be able to reprise his brilliantly portrayed role.

RIP Edward Herman

(He had an amazing voice and used it to read voiceovers, playing Franklin D. Roosevelt in the Ken Burns documentary, of which I watched near the end of the year, after Herman was gone.)


Love and Despair

with the shocking death of Jonathan Crombie (Gilbert), the man behind the portrayal of a great literary heroic character.

Third, Christopher Lee.

Into The West: RIP Sir Christopher Lee


Babies are born and babies die everyday.

Departed and Demented

Upon hearing of the loss of one precious life, for which I had to rant about the unfair ways of the world, next came a re-blog from my own blog, written one year earlier, the worst kind of anniversary imaginable.

The Dark Mark

These few things from early in the month on my blog only served to show the contrasted miracle, the wonderful shock I would get at the end of the month

I had no idea I was about to learn of the upcoming birth of a sweet child in the month of spring’s renewed promise.

Let’s just say, to say I was shocked to learn of my friend’s pregnancy was an understatement. Best surprise all year and, as I continue on with this 2015 summary, that is about to demonstrate how much this brand new little girl means to me because she is a part of my oldest friend. No publishing achievement or literary goal met can possibly compete.

I saw my aunt twice this year, in her new home, a senior’s long-term care facility, sadly. My uncle, my father’s half-brother, he visited from Germany. He wanted to see his sister because nobody knows when it will be their final time together.

Milestones and Siblings

I spent lots of time with family, not only during the month of April, but I make a point to do this every month, any time during any given year. This year, 2015 was no exception.


It was only by doing this that I could think enough about how lucky I am to have family of my own, that I was able to write the guest post about famous orphans in literature.


Into the fifth month of 2015, nearly halfway now, and things really took a lousy turn.

I was distracted and although the first computer problem was a simple mistake, a fluke thing and a sign of my naivete with technology, it was only when I was careless enough to have a sticky drink next to my precious laptop that I really had something to kick myself over.

Having to fall back and depend on an ex boyfriend to fix things was a hard thing to do. I knew he’d help, if I asked, but I didn’t wish to bother him. It was still hard to admit that he was the one person I would still need, in the desperation I was facing, when it came to computers and technology, the one person I would still trust most to help and help he did. He’s good like that.

If it weren’t for the honour of a request to write a post on a writer’s site whom I greatly admire, the month would have been a total disaster.

Writing the World, Sight Unseen

The girl’s got a way with coming up with titles. Oh, and she’s got the neatest sounding last name around.


Oh, and then there’s this.

The Second Chances Anthology


At least some good came from the month of May.

Oh, and I can’t forget this either and never could.

Ten Things of Thankful

May was the month I joined this wonderful weekly blog hop. Many examples of what TToT stands for and looks like can be found in the comment section of this origin post.

There was, also, the series finale of a truly great show.

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Men World

End of an era really, or several, from the 60s onward to the end of 2015 and the start of 2016.


And I had a publisher. Yay!

Little Bird Publishing House

And with that, I had to attempt to put into words what writing means to me.

How Writing Has Positively Influenced My Life

Still working on this, but I keep letting other things come first.

Close But No Cigar

The year 2015 was now halfway over. I was still working on both education and love.

New Month, New Me

Another milestone. I made it another year with my father’s kidney, working and keeping me well and off dialysis. Every year I avoid that is a reason to celebrate.

The year 2015 has been a spectacular one for music.

Every F****n Day – Lolawolf

“You must be curious. Even…just…a little.”


This song, among others, made my year and it was only half over.

Figure It Out – Royal Blood

I was trying.

This year, 2015, meant the anniversaries for my grandparents’ deaths:

**Five years for Grandpa

Ruby Red

**Five years for Oma

Gardens of Sunset

**And ten years for Grandma

You Are My Sunshine

Speaking of death, the composer of the wonderful Titanic soundtrack died, tragically, in a plane crash.

RIP James Horner

The US did make some progress this summer.



My country has made some much needed changes this year too.

Canada Day, 2015

We’re working on reconciliation and welcoming our differences, rather than hiding them away and spreading fear.

Life is all about the fireworks.


Whether it was the stress of a first date or the unpredictability of a summer fling,

(Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus, and Then There’s Jupiter)

I had one hell of a summer.

One Last Kiss




That’s another item I can check off my bucket list.

Color, Light, and Magic

Plus another guest post on J.K. Rowling’s end-of-July 50th birthday.


It was a truly spectacular book and a fascinating study in literature.

Jean Louise The Silent: My Review of “Go Set A Watchman”, Part One


Jean Louise The Silent: My Review of “Go Set A Watchman”, Part Two

The summer was full of not only literature, but also some amazing theatre performances, culture, and history.

Read a review of the play here:

Stratford’s Diary of Anne Frank

And the summer ended with a bit of nature by Future of the Ocean.

Big Blue Live

And one more guest post I had published on Hasty Words.

Be Real

My summer of 2015 was full of new experiences, harsh realities, and missed opportunities.

Rural Pride, County Wide

Sometimes, some things just aren’t meant to be.


When the anthology with my story first came out in the summer it was only available as an EBook, but finally I could hold a book with a story I’d written in my own two hands. It was an indescribable feeling and a dream come true.


With the arrival of autumn there’s the twenty year anniversary for Jagged Little Pill.


At the end of the month I had a trip to Toronto which was full of surprises and adventures.


Faith and a Spinster’s Gratitude List – Harvest Moon


I tried my hand at Writer’s Digest’s month long October Platform Challenge, but I messed it up and did not finish. Admittedly, it was a bit of a half effort and I misread the instructions.

Check it out here.

This year marks three anniversaries for television and music I’ve loved:

Gilmore Girls, A Boy Named Goo, Beverly Hills 90210

By the time we were nearing the end of 2015,

Canadians felt it was time for a change.

I also decided to try something a little different, when I was invited to do an interview for an online radio program.

Travelling with the Speed of Sight

Canada’s one-and-only Major League team, Toronto Blue Jays, came closer than they have in more than twenty years, to winning the World Series. It was a wild ride.


The eleventh month of 2015 found me trying something new, something I’ve wanted for a long time.

Words with Friends

Being a part of a writing group is exactly what I have needed to progress with my own writing. I hope to continue with this in the year to come.

Remembrance Day and November 11th had a special significance this year.

In Flanders Fields: One Hundred Years Later

An unassuming Friday the 13th in November turned into much more, so much devastation,

with the attack in Paris.

Then came the first of the hospitalizations for my brother for 2015 and this one was frightening enough, but it was only a prelude to what was to come for our December.

And with one one hundred year anniversary there came a forty year one shortly after,

with a Great Lakes ship wreck and a song written more like a tale set to music.

It was time to celebrate a great man.


My Father Turned Sixty

On the final day of November.



As Long As There’s Christmas: My Grownup Letter For Santa, 2015

We almost made it. We’d arrived at mid month, only a few weeks left in 2015 and then the bottom dropped out.

My brother had a bad fall and suffered a brain injury.

For a few days we weren’t sure what kind of Christmas we would have, but my family and his friends never stopped believing he would come out of it the same old Brian.

Decade Adrift

The doctors didn’t want us to get our hopes up, but we had a Christmas like the others.


We were all together and Brian played music again.

My last guest post of 2015. – Advent Calendar Day 20: One Tradition After Another


Now I end 2015 with a huge Happy Birthday wish for the most special five-year-old around and I ring in 2016 with a friend. Girl’s night!

In the world of feminism, 2015 was a fabulous year for discovering awesome female voices in music, literature, travel, social issues, and history.


The Danger of a Single Story – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Talking to Amy Gigi Alexander

He Named Me Malala


The 1994 Miep Gies Lecture

Not all of these are current, but the act of me finding them this year is the point. All examples, of females who are or were strong, which gives me the push to keep moving forward.

Women of the Year: 30 Canadians Who Rocked 2015

On the continually fascinating subject of wickedly special females, three albums and their artists are worth mentioning this year:

First, Vulnicura.

Black Lake

by Bjork.

Second, How Big How Blue How Beautiful.

Ship To Wreck – Florence + The Machine.

And third, Honeymoon.

High by the Beach – Lana Del Ray

As for The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge, it was an every Monday sort of thing for the previous half of 2014 and I continued, missing a week here and there, but I have not forgotten about its importance in my own world and here on my blog.

This coming year I plan on really starting something that I want to focus on though. The year 2016 will be 20 years since I began the journey that matured me before my age likely would have otherwise.

Let Them Eat Cake

I have imagined writing a book about it, memoir called Piece of Cake, for years. Now that I have this blog I will start by writing about those days, as the next few years pass.

I have goals and dreams for 2016 and beyond, but I hesitate to speak of them all out loud, in fear of falling short.

FGP’s Virtual Holiday Party

I want to make more connections with writers, creative and smart women, and I want to keep writing. I want to not be afraid to keep putting my words out there, even though the fear of more rejection is a lingering one.

I want to keep working on the one and only “resolution” from 2014/2015: jealousy. I hate that part of myself and I wish I could let that go. That doesn’t mean I don’t want the best for others and don’t cheer other people on. It just means I do both and feel conflicted.

Some make resolutions, others pick one word for their year, but I resist doing both. If I have to choose one word though, I suppose I will go with “Adventure”. I do want more of this, as I believe life is one giant adventure, all the years we get to live it.

We in Canada made a change and took a stand in 2015 and, the question for 2016 is and will be: America, will you?

Okay, so I just went through my entire blog for the year, to prepare for this post. I know. It was a long one.

Wow, I wrote a lot. I did not receive an end-of-the-year WP blog stats report like I did last year though. Hmmm. Wonder if that means I didn’t do well with follows, comments, and views this year. Ah well. Staying true to myself and remaining authentic is all I can ask for.

Goodbye 2015…hello 2016. Be kind.

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion, Feminism, Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, IN THE NEWS AND ON MY MIND, Kerry's Causes, The Blind Reviewer

Who Is Malala? #1000Speak, #StopGunViolence

Malala Yousafzai has just three words for you: BOOKS NOT BULLETS


“Let us pick up our books and our pens. They are our most powerful weapons. One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

I write with many things in mind today.

1000 Voices Speak For Compassion

This is part movie review, part

1000 Speak post,

and part outcry against gun violence.

Note: possible “He Named Me Malala” spoilers ahead.

I want to answer the question, just in case it isn’t already known: Who is Malala?

The word “Malala” means grief stricken or sadness and she was named after Malalai of Maiwand, a famous warrior woman from Pakistan, who fought and died.

Malala’s story went differently. Bullets did not stop her, on that bus, back in 2012 and hatred did not silence her.

He Named Me Malala

This film shines a light on Malala’s everyday family life, in and amongst the news clips from the shooting.

Just like any other teenage girl, when an interviewer asks her about crushes and boys, she replies with shyness and giggling.

She appears on television, doing many interviews. On The Daily Show, she states the idea that girls are more powerful than boys. John Stewart replies, feigning shock at just such a thought.

The scenes with her arm wrestling and bickering with her younger brothers showed the sweetness and the love of a family who only want to live in peace.

Her mother does not speak, for the most part, throughout. She loves her family, her daughter, but she has found settling into the new life they have in Birmingham, England and far from their home, which is now too dangerous, a struggle to adjust.

Their Islamic culture has taught her things about modesty, as she still points out to her daughter, when they are out. Her mother notices any man that appears to be looking at her. She was raised in a place and time when it was the norm to cover the woman’s face in public, but Malala tells her mother that “he may be looking at me, but I am looking at him too.”

It isn’t easy to blend these two countries and cultures for Malala’s mother, who is unable to speak the language and, despite all that’s happened, misses her home.

She says, in the film, that she looks up at the moon and reflects on how everything is different, in their new home, except the moon. She knows this is where her daughter is safe from those, in the Taliban, who would still want her silenced, and so she adapts.

Only those filled with hate could be threatened by an innocent child. Nobody who understood what love means and the power it has could or would act with such cowardice.

Malala tries to educate, about what is said in the Quran:

“Allah says, if you kill one person, it is as if you kill whole humanity.
The profit of Muhammad is the profit of mercy. Do not harm yourself or others. And do you not know the first word of the Quran means “read”?”

Malala Yousafzai’s 2014 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

I can hear her bnervousness, during her acceptance speech, by the sound her mouth makes as she speaks. It’s as if her mouth is extremely dry, but she makes a hugely important statement with her words..

“When you light a candle, you also cast a shadow.”
–Ursula K. Le Guin

Malala is the candle. The shadow barged onto her school bus and shot her and her friends.

These monsters, under the guise of the religion of Islam, made their way onto that bus and asked, “Who is Malala?”

Now, her story and her documentary shines a light on that shadow and on the candle that brings the world’s attention to what must be done to keep candles like hers burning.

Malala went to her father’s school, studied and played with her friends, and then things began to change.

The Taliban came to her village and began to worm their way into people’s heads, to seize control and to indoctrinate. They would, soon enough, turn to the only thing they know: violence.

Women were rounded up, flogged in the town square, and people were killed. Schools were destroyed.

“Education for girls went from being a right to being a crime.”

Girls were forbidden to go to school, to speak up, to have a future. Most people were, understandably, too scared and remained silent. Not Malala and her father.

Malala was still young, but not so young that she couldn’t be afraid, for her father more than herself. She speaks, in the film, about checking and double-checking all the doors and windows in their house before going to bed because she was afraid they would come for her father in the night.

This is love and it can drive out hate. No young girl should have to live with this fear, I realized as I thought how I would feel if my own father were under threat like that.

Her father taught her and believed that if you have to live under the control of someone else, enslaved, that becomes a life not worth living. Some might find it controversial, for a child to do what she would do, but try living under such a regime and then judge.

Malala did speak up about her right to education being taken away, the rights of her female friends, and she did it in a blog for the BBC. At first she was anonymous, but eventually, as she did more speaking and interviews, her identity was revealed. This made her a threat.

She is sometimes asked:

“Why should girls go to school? Why is it important for them? But I think, the more important question is…why shouldn’t they?”

Brave brave girl.

Malala has only ever wanted children to receive education, women to have equal rights, and for their to be peace for every corner of the world.

These aren’t too much to ask, are they?

She wants all frightened children to have peace, for the voiceless to have change.

“It is not time to pity them. It is time to take action.”

She says it is not enough to take steps, but that a leap is needed instead.

Her story of hearing from a girl she once went to school with, after losing touch with her, only to discover this girl has two children sticks out in my mind most sharply.

Malala is asked what her life would be like if she were just an ordinary girl and her response is that she is still an ordinary girl:

“But if I had an ordinary father and an ordinary mother, then I would have two children now.”

Nothing ordinary about this young woman. Number one thing that makes a difference in any child’s life is getting the love they deserve, that all children deserve, but that so many don’t receive.

“It is not time to tell world leaders to realize the importance of education. They already know it. Their own children are in good schools. It is time to call them to take action for the rest of the world’s children, to unite and make education their top priority. Basic literacy is no longer sufficient.”

Watching her documentary and her Nobel Peace Prize speech make me cry, but they empower me too.

When she talks about that moment when you must choose whether or not to stand up or remain silent, I get chills and I want to cry. I know about feeling voiceless and powerless. I am sure we can all relate in some way, to these words, whether it’s due to prejudice against women, inside the oppressive walls of old fashioned cultural beliefs, or against people with disabilities.

You don’t know how lucky you are to have an education, until it’s being taken from you.

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

She demands to know why governments find it so easy to make weapons, tanks, and wars but building schools, bringing education, and spreading peace instead of violence is so hard.

This is the same question I’ve had for a long time, when I see my own country of Canada (who have made Malala an honorary Canadian citizen) saying goodbye to one prime minister and welcoming in the next, when a new president will be decided upon for the US next year.

Why do we value weapons like guns and tanks and bombs, over words and books and education?

Malala asks why is it so easy for countries to give guns and so hard to give books and build schools?

Speaking about her attackers:

“Neither their ideas nor their bullets could win.”

Guns, in the wrong hands, the hands of a violent group of terrorists like the Taliban put Malala in a coma, have damaged her smile, her face, her hearing on one side of her head, but they really ended up doing the opposite of what they were hoping to do. Instead of silencing her, living or dead, she survived and is louder than ever.

“They shot me on the left side of my head. They thought the bullet would silence us. I am the same Malala.”

And does Malala hold any grudges or feel any hatred? Has she forgiven them?

No and yes are her answers to those questions. No hate. She has decided to focus on love, compassion, and peace.

“I don’t want revenge on the Taliban, I want education for sons and daughters of the Taliban.”

Some men, spoken to on camera for the documentary, go so far as to claim that Malala’s story is simply a publicity stunt and that her father is behind it all, that he wrote every word supposedly attributed to his daughter.

I couldn’t believe this when I heard it. What arrogance. The fact that a girl is thought to be unable to say anything of any value is the saddest thing of all, but it is so often the reality.

Malala’s father is proud to be known as such.

“Thank you to my father, for not clipping my wings, and for letting me fly.”

This film is about love. It’s about the love one father has for his family, for his daughter.

My Daughter, Malala – Ziauddin Yousafzai – TED Talk

It’s easy, for some in the west, to think of all men in the Muslim culture as being oppressive towards women. Ziauddin is a father, just like my own, just like any other. He and his daughter are squashing stereotypes and showing the world that most families, no matter where they come from, only want peace, safety, and an education for their loved ones and for themselves.

This father has taught, not only his daughter to stand up for her rights, but he’s shown his two young sons the value girls and women deserve. He’s imparting, into these two impressionable boys, the respect that is going to make a kinder, gentler generation of men everywhere.

“My father only gave me the name Malala. He didn’t make me Malala.”

So then just who is Malala Yousafzai?

“I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is not. It is the story of many girls: 66 million girls who are deprived of education.”

I chose Malala’s story for October’s #1000Speak because I saw nothing but compassion and love.

“I had two choices: remain silent and wait to be killed or speak up and then be killed. I chose the second one. I decided to speak up.”

I can speak up, without the fear of being killed and hopefully now so can Malala.

Love triumphs over hate.


Guest Blogs and Featured Spotlights, Kerry's Causes, Memoir Monday, The Blind Reviewer, The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge

Reviewing Blindness

July is moving along.

Okay, well I could always complain, but I won’t. Not now. Maybe later.


Last week, I wrote about how:

Men Are From Mars, Women From Venus, and Then There’s Jupiter.

This week is a free post week.

I have freely chosen to go back seven or so years, to write a movie review of sorts.


I was randomly watching television the other day and suddenly I got this yucky, icky feeling.

It’s a feeling I get anytime I happen to think about one particular movie that I saw when it came out in theatres back in 2008.

It was only a commercial, announcing the airing of a film on television, coming up this weekend.

I had never heard of the novel: “Blindness”, before seeing the film.

Sure, the title intrigued me and my brothers. We chose to see it, but I had no idea, going in, what to expect.

What would happen if an entire city lost their sight?

This film, developed from the Jose Saramago novel of the same name, is a social commentary of sorts. It examines a very good question, but i did not like the results of this particular examination.

I did not like the answer to the question and I was not alone.

NFB Protests Opening of Blindness in 37 States

Several US organizations and groups protested the film on its release. They said it painted blind people in the most horrible of lights. I agree, but I know, deep down, that it is only a story.

It is a question that I have wondered myself. I know just how terrified most people become at the very thought of going blind. It is society’s worst fear, but that’s because it is so very possible. Losts of people lose their sight, mostly due to old age, but not always. What if it were to happen, as some sort of epidemic that began to spread, mysteriously?

The city in this film is not named. Most of the characters aren’t named either. It’s the boy or the woman with the dark glasses or the King of Ward 3, receptionist or the accountant or the man with the eye patch. We don’t learn about these characters as people, who they are or who they were, before they lost the most important of all the senses, the one most people could never ever imagine living without.

It has been several years since I saw it, so this review may be vague in some spots, but others are burned into my brain.

There is loyalty and compassion, but there is mostly chaos, disorder, and the sudden White Blindness seems to be the reason for a total breakdown of law and order, of civilization.

The doctor (Mark) he treats a patient who has suddenly and mysteriously lost his sight. Several car accidents are going on around this unnamed city, because the drivers simply lose their sight and crash into each other.

I remember the entire film sounding quite muted. There is a lot of silence, even behind the traffic noises, the dialogue, and eventually there is yelling and danger.

The doctor’s wife (Julianne) is the only one who is spared, for whatever reason, but pretends just so she can accompany her husband, so they will not be separated. This puts her in danger, but she shows her courage.

The newly blind citizens are locked up in an insane asylum, to keep them safe, but soon they are trapped and cut off from the rest of the world, from any possible help.

This is where the blind community has protested. The situation declines rapidly into madness. Sanitation becomes a problem. There is nobody cleaning the facility and soon there is filth and faeces in the halls. Food becomes scarce. People turn on each other and survival is their only goal. Mob rules is the way of it. Those in favour would claim that this is more a display of how humanity would break down, not blind people specifically, that this is no real reflection of blind people.

The Federation of the Blind would say it still paints blind people as unclean, violent, crazy and dangerous.

I know, logically, it is just a story. I knew that as I sat there, in the theatre, watching the events of Blindness play out on the screen in front of me.

I still reacted the way I reacted. It was a reaction I could not help, that I did not expect.

Are Protesters of Blindness Missing the Point?

As conditions decline, a gang of thugs holds food hostage from the starving prisoners, and then there was the rape scene. I was horrified by what I saw, a mass rape scene, which made me want to get up and leave the theatre then and there.

That, paired with the fact that the people were locked up in an asylum, both made me angry and wishing I had never went to see Blindness.

I guess the idea that any government would lock up its citizens, after they started to go blind, this is more drastic, but it made me picture segregation. I don’t even like the schools for the blind that do exist, but this was a fictional horror that I knew wasn’t real, and still I felt sick.

I will never be able to truly enjoy either Julianne Moore or Mark Ruffalo again, in any other role, after seeing them portray a couple who must survive and take care of each other and others in such a scenario.

I don’t know if I can or will ever read this novel. I don’t know, but maybe seeing it as a movie first is the reason, but watching it disturbed me so much, deep down. I don’t know, but books are often more detailed than movies.

Of course, the author of this book had feelings when he heard how blind people were reacting. He used blindness allegorically, to make his point about the humanity (or lack thereof) and breakdown of our society.

Everyone had their own right to feel the way they felt: whether it was the writer of the novel or the people with the disability he wrote about.

Author decries Blindness protests as misguided – Arts … – CBC

My reaction had nothing to do with the quality of the book, as I have never read it, but my physical reaction to seeing the story come to life on screen.

As for Blindness, the novel: I don’t think I will get to it. So many books; so little time.


I don’t think I could stomach it, but, then again, never say never.

But perhaps I’m missing out on something brilliant, a marvellous piece of fiction.

He was described as a pessimist.

No way!


So, upon entering the theatre, when they took our tickets…

Movie employee: Enjoy Blindness.

My blind brother and myself: We always do.


At what age were you or your loved ones diagnosed?

That is the question I will be answering, one week from now, for

The Redefining Disability Awareness Challenge


Check out the

Redefining Disability Awareness Project On Facebook,

for all this and more.

Memoir and Reflections, Special Occasions, The Blind Reviewer, This Day In Literature

Movie Review: One Last Time

This is to be the final Middle-earth film, or so it seems, and with it goes a Christmas tradition I have enjoyed with my siblings for the previous three years now.

The five of us have loved going to see the first two and this one was eagerly anticipated by all.

The excitement has built, as they have been released every holiday season. Therefore, I had no choice but to wait a year in between each, but the experience has been entirely worth the wait, a lot happening in our own lives in the intervening months between each film.

Note: This review may contain spoilers and some names of characters, places, and events unfamiliar to anyone who has not seen the previous films or read the book, but my reviews are about more than just movies so I hope you may just take a chance and read further anyway.


It’s January and around this time, eight years ago it was, I picked a movie to watch with my siblings. I am damn glad I did this.

My siblings and I were looking for something to do to kill some time on a cold and wintry weekend. We often watched movies and my brother had a collection of his favourites. He told me to pick one and I reached out for the three or so he had held out toward me.

My finger landed on one I had been resisting for several years, since Lord of the Rings came out in theatres, five or so years before.

I thought I hated all fantasy and thought there was nothing there to interest me, nothing for me to learn. I am not too proud to admit when I am totally wrong about something.

It’s hard for me to describe to others what it has meant to me to discover these movies/books and why.

It would come quickly upon me that weekend. I would love it instantly, from that very first opening scene of darkness and the haunting voice of Cate speaking Elfish.

By the end of that weekend marathon, where we finished all three films in twenty-four hours, I was completely drawn in by the world and by the beings inhabiting it.

I had no blog last year at this time and was not writing on a regular basis. I highly regret this and wish I had written reviews when seeing the first two Hobbit films; Movies taken from stories as rich in detail and plot as these can be incredibly difficult to tackle with any hope of clarity or conciseness. I just shouldn’t have let a lack of a blog stop me, but I write this now.

I did not write reviews for “An Unexpected Journey” or “Desolation of Smaug” at the time of each film’s release. I did not write about how great it was to see the famous scene with three giant trolls attempting to cook twelve dwarves and one hobbit (burglar) or one of the best scenes from literature: Riddles in the Dark.

In any case, I will attempt here to sum up important details and then explain why I found this to be the perfect end to a gripping story of danger and adventure.

First, it is worth mentioning that I have come to love Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins and I know I’m not the only one. He is charming and loveable, just the sort of reluctant hero these movies require.

I have been glad to see the return of characters such as Gandalf the Grey (the wizard played by Sir Ian McKellen), the elf queen Galadriel (Cate Blanchett), and Saruman the White (the grave wizard with yet-to-be-discovered evil intent, played by Sir Christopher Lee).

All the events that must have taken place for Gandalf when he left the dwarves and one hobbit at the outskirts of the dark Mirkwood Forrest in the book, these have been filled in for the films and I’ve loved it, whilst others have complained. It is all details deduced and taken from appendices and other Tolkien reference materials. I found it utterly necessary to fill in the blanks and add depth to the unforeseen events on the move, evolving, even while a fight to reclaim a mountain dwarf kingdom and destroy a dragon was going on in another part of Middle-earth.

Many events run together and happen simultaneously in the world and fate, or whatever you want to call it, of Middle-earth, which may intervene at the strangest of times.

This film begins with destruction by the dragon. I loved how abruptly the previous movie ended, with Smaug flying free and about to reek havoc on Laketown and anyone unlucky enough to be in his path, while others found it jarring. Sometimes, as in these films, it is good to end suddenly and pick right back up again, because these movies won’t always be seen in theatres, with year-long gaps in between each, and that was the middle film in the trilogy after all.

The heroic character of Bard the Bowman (played by Luke Evans) starts off this film imprisoned and so does Gandalf, but they are both soon released. Never fear.


The scenes with Gandalf at the mercy of the dark power and his minions is frightening, for sure, but they are no match for the might of the head wizard of the order (with, as of yet, unestablished sketchy intentions of his own) and two wise and ancient elves.

Gandalf’s power is greatly diminished when they arrive, but he is soon rescued by his friend and fellow wizard Radagast the Brown (portrayed by Sylvester McCoy), and taken away to safety.

The power of the three rings still held by the elves and by Saruman’s staff is enough, to hold the as yet fully developed evil powerful Eye at bay and to drive him out of his stronghold in Mirkwood. However, this won’t be the end of it, as most people know.

These are thrilling scenes for me, the force of good fighting the evil that is growing is a taste of things to come in Lord of the Rings. It is definitely going to be worth watching The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings in succession if given the chance because these layered stories are mighty and will surely be magnificent when watched all together.

As a foreshadowing of things to come, the scenes in Dol Guldur come to an end with Elrond, Galadriel, and Saruman deciding what to do next about Sauron.

The wizard’s words:

“Leave Sauron to me.”

These are ominous clues of what is really going on inside his own mind and a small taste of things to come.

Back at Lake-town, Bard becomes the hero of his people when he does what nobody else has been able to do, using a deadly black arrow as his precise weapon of choice.

I loved the way Smaug was brought to life in the previous film. The voice of Benedict Cumberbatch and the effect placed on it were all I needed to be completely enthralled by the character, almost wanting more than the almost non-existent glimpse of him in this last film. I almost wished for him to stick around to cause more damage than he already had done, but that was not meant to be.

However, I was pleased to hear a small return of his horribly wicked voice, in an unexpected place. Not sure if a lot of people would have picked out where he makes a slight reappearance, but they don’t call it “dragon sickness” for nothing.


A lot of the visuals of a dragon destroying everything in his path, leaving fire and rubble in his wake are lost on me, but I am sure it is worth watching. I can only focus on the characters and on the many themes explored in these movies and in this last one in particular.

I was left speechless and motionless in my seat as talk of fighting for what the elves, men, and dwarves are all felt to be owed began.

I know these are only fictional, fantastical fights, but they perfectly illustrate the fighting going on every single day, between people of all kinds, for all kinds of things.

I don’t know quite what to say about war and never really have. It seems it begins in early childhood, with the fights kids have over their toys. However, we teach children that they must share and to resolve their issues, but how many remember these lessons when the stakes grow higher in later life?

This movie is the perfect mix of material possession and the possession love can take or the friendship that are the things that matter more than any jewel. I firmly believe this and that is why such things speak to me in between the weapons and the cool-looking CGI creatures of which I can not see.

Thorin (played by Richard Armitage) takes his place in the Lonely Mountain and has back his kingdom home, not to mention all the treasure he could ever wish for. There is a certain nobleness in that, in reclaiming something which is rich in family history and memories. Often, though, this can turn into want and greed, no amount ever being enough. Greed is the main theme in most of this film and comes so close to resulting in his downfall.

There is the small detail that he has promised a fair piece of that treasure to the people of Laketown, but something has taken over him once he enters his new realm. This is where a reappearance of the dragon Smaug made my ears perk up in surprise and interest.

Thorin’s voice begins to take on that of the destroyed dragon, as so-called “dragon sickness” takes over and starts to blind him, invading his mind.

I am pleased by the hallmark items which make their appearance in these Hobbit films, connecting both trilogies by their significance and familiarity.

Amongst the many varied treasures in the mountain are the mithril vest, of which is presented to Bilbo, to help protect him in the battle to come and of which he will one day pass on to Frodo for the journey to Mount Doom.

Then there is the most valuable of the treasure, to the elves, the white gems, of which is part of the fight that Thranduil and Thorin will have over what belongs to whom.

This is where the light comes from, Light of Earendil, of which is Galadriel’s light, in dark places, and gift to Frodo, at a later date, on his dark quest to destroy the Ring of Power.

“Let it be a light for you in dark places…when all other lights go out.”

All items important at different times, in Middle-earth: rings of power and The One Ring, mithril, The Arkenstone, and Light of Earendil – they all represent the forces of greed and selfishness, sacrifice and selflessness. The Ring is the best known of these of course.

Bilbo has been in possession of this ring for a while and it has only begun to take hold of him. For the moment it comes in rather handy in his need to confront Smaug or mediate in the fight between the dwarves and the men and elves.

The ring and the jewel share the same quality of possession on their holders and this connects Bilbo and Thorin, not only as friends an travel companions, but also as two beings having to fight forces unseen and underestimated.

I especially love the representation and symbolism of such jewels and items. Bad or good. Dark or light, in the world of Middle-earth.

The brave Thorin Oakenshield is prey to the bad and the dark, but Bilbo does what he does because he knows the truth and has seen the kind of bravery and honour Thorin is really capable of.

The Arkenstone has already been discovered by Bilbo, as if possessing the ring is not enough for him.


He resists. He sees what all the rest of the treasure is doing to his leader of the company and he fears what this most precious of all the jewels might do to push Thorin over the edge.

Bilbo spent the most time with the dragon in my favourite scenes from the previous film. He is the one who heard the malice and the evil, up close, in Smaug’s words. Bilbo must now make some very difficult choices, risking being thought as a betrayer to the dwarves, or worse.

The elfin king Thranduil (played by Lee Pace) brings his army, not solely to aid the men of Laketown in their plans to find refuge and shelter in the mountain and to get payment they made a deal to receive from Thorin, but for his own’s sake, thinking only of his own race, a problem much too common in Middle-earth or on ours. He remains arrogant and selfish throughout much of the film, unable to see what others might be feeling.

The name Battle of the Five Armies is coming into clearer view, with the men, elves, and dwarves already clashing in ideology and intent, but they will soon have no choice but to come together to fend off a much worse foe that would see them all wiped out for good.

So many dwarves; so little time, and I unable to mention them all.


The dwarf Fili (portrayed by Dean O’Gorman) was wounded in the previous film, but the familiar Athelas plant (to those who have seen or read Lord of the Rings) and the love and healing powers from an elf bring him back from the brink of death.

When I heard, in the second movie, that there was going to be introduced a new female character, Tauriel (played by Evangeline Lilly), I must admit I was skeptical, just this side of disgusted.

I am not one of those hard-core fans who complain at every little detail omitted or added (Tom Bombadil). I see the value in making the movie version something to stand on its own, separate from the book while yet still loyal to its heart and soul.

I liked to hear that Orlando Bloom was coming back to apprise his role of Legolas. After all, he was alive a long time before the quest to destroy the ring of power. The dwarves, in the books, do encounter the mirkwood elves and he was one of them. I had no trouble picturing him being around for these events.

However, he was not actually mentioned by name by Tolkien in The Hobbit book, so I couldn’t really admit it was just fine for him to be included, when none of us can say what the original author would have preferred. I had to understand why the film makers decided to make him a part of their adaptation and why the character of Tauriel was brought into it too and to take it all for what it was.

Now, I love a good romance just as much as the next person. I even wanted there to be more of a love story than there was, in book or film, between Sam and Rosie in Lord of the Rings. Sadly, I had to settle for the short scene of their wedding at the end, as she was never a part of the story that was told.

Admittedly, I just felt a little ill at the parts with the developing love triangle between Legolas, Tauriel, and the dwarf Fili in “The Desolation of Smaug”.

At the time of the second film, I also felt they just needed to bring in some kick-ass warrior female elf, to appease women. Or, perhaps, to make up for the fact that their portrayal of Tolkien’s other female elf, in the Lord of the Rings movies, they had mostly on the sidelines.. Like Bilbo and his lack of fighting in the battles, these characters, even the female ones have their strengths and powers.

For some reason, it wasn’t until this third film that I started to see the value in the addition of Tauriel.

The point was to show how love can develop and exist, no matter the circumstance or the race or type of people involved. I felt for Legolas, but his love for Torial never wavered. He fought for her and nearly died for her.

As for Tauriel and Fili, I could feel the tension and the threat of her being banished from the Mirkwood kingdom by the king. He did not see that love could spring up between two unlikely beings, but really his history with dwarves and his own past lost love were the true influencers of his actions and his words.

When finally he recognized how she had truly found and lost something valuable, a lot like himself in long years past, he was able to fulfill the role of wise elfin king, offering her this vindication of her feelings.

Tauriel: Why does it hurt so?

Thranduil: Because it is real.

I wanted to cry then, when I heard this brief yet powerful exchange. I felt vindicated somehow, in my own life, dealing with feelings of confusion on my own recent loss of love. I had found the part, in “The Hobbit”, that could make me feel just a little bit better about my own situation. Something can’t hurt as badly as what she or I have felt, if there truly hadn’t been something real there, all along.

Gandalf returns, just in time for battle. He arrives to find Bilbo risking his own life to make peace and he is clearly proud at the choices (the hobbit he chose, more than thirty months earlier, to go on an adventure) has made. His sense of protection over Bilbo is heartwarming and one of the sweetest parts of these movies. As dire and powerful as this wizard can sometimes be, there is a gentleness and a loving concern he shows for his true friends.

My favourite of the Middle-earth creatures make their sweeping appearance, as they do to wrap up “the Lord of the Rings” trilogy, they arrive and their screeching cries echo from film to film in my head. This is the part that sticks out in my mind, from the completion of the battle between five armies, in the books.

They may sweep in to take care of things by the end, but that’s the whole point. Middle-earth does not survive from only the actions of one race of beings.

Bilbo is only a small hobbit in a big big world and his fame does not consist of him bringing the final crushing blow in the battle, but this does not diminish his role. His contribution is much more about the hard choices he makes, the little hobbit who is burglar (thief), peace-barter, and friend..

I like that in the title of these tales, at the heart of it is one small being, so easily relatable to me, who is still able to make the biggest of impacts. It means that any of us, no matter how small, can make a difference somehow.

The promise made in the title of this third film is definitely fulfilled. There is plenty of battling for those who love such things. Although on-the-edge-of-your-seat exciting at times, they are not what I truly look forward to in any film.

I gave these stories a chance, finally, one cold and snowy January day, and I am glad I did. Such stories of fantasy and adventure allow me to leave real life for a time and escape into a world of danger I will never face, a chance for the kind of adventure I know I will never go on, and in a world so rich of all the kinds of creatures that may not exist, but when I watch these movies it is all brought to life for me and so many others.

My heart races and my pulse quickens. I can imagine the danger and the glory. I feel the things that make Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Jackson’s vision a reality in my mind’s eye.

And so I watched the end of the battles and the resolution, at least for the time being, of several characters and their story arcs.

Legolas was told by the king, that if he could no longer remain in Mirkwood, he should go in search of a certain man in the wilds, known as Strider, but who really went by another name entirely.


The dwarves had their mountain back, but they lost comrades in the struggle. They had gold to live on, but had paid a heavy price, as in all wars, make-believe and real.

Bilbo and Gandalf make the return from battle journey together, having developed a strong bond of friendship that will live on into the next part of this tale. They begin such iconic activities, in this film, as the favourite smoking of pipe weed.

Bilbo returns to a home, The Shire, where he was assumed to be dead and must take back his hobbit hole (Bag End) and all the belongings almost sold at auction by other meddling hobbit relatives. He does this with very little problem, as he has just so recently been through a lot worse.


This leaves him to pick up where he left off before the arrival of one wizard and twelve dwarves.

He has changed and grown, in survival and in battle if not in physical stature, but in one more thing he has accumulated. HE now has a particular souvenir of his time away, one that he is keeping mostly secret, accept from one, his friend whom he could not hide his secret from. It will never fully let go of the hold it has on him again.

The very end of the movie shows where the beginning of Lord of the Rings picks up at. It could be the same scene, with the elderly Bilbo attempting to hide in his hobbit hole, from nosey relatives mentioned above. When suddenly that familiar knock and voice brings him back and brings me to a happy conclusion: a sigh and a smile, the story will go on and will never truly be over for me.

The first Hobbit film began with an elderly Bilbo relaying the story of his journey as a younger hobbit, to the Lonely Mountain, to an eagerly listening hobbit by the name of Frodo.

Now, here we are and we are left with the perfect bookend and an intriguing open invitation to go straight on to the quest to destroy a ring.

I wanted to add up all the lessons in life I found in this movie. I hope I got them across in this “review”.

Here is a fun round-up of this latest Peter Jackson onscreen triumph, because I would give it that title overall.

Five Reasons We Love The Hobbit

I love it too and my reasons are plentiful.


But will this truly be the last we see of Peter Jackson’s interpretations of Tolkien’s world?

Is the “One Last Time” slogan actually accurate or simply a marketing scheme to get people to rush to their nearest cinema?

I suppose only time will tell.

Check out the song for the final credits of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, written and performed by Pippin himself, Billy Boyd. He sang the song I love so much from Return of the King and so it seems only fitting his voice is the last thing I heard as I sat there, as the final credits rolled.

I did not want to get up from my seat, even as I heard the theatre around me begin to empty and my siblings waiting expectedly, one, in particular, in desperate need of a bathroom break after two and a half hours.


This wasn’t just the end of a trilogy I loved, but the end of so much: end of the year 2014, of a relationship I had regretfully said goodbye to, and to a beloved holiday tradition with my siblings that meant a great deal to me. I wished, for all this, that the movie would never end, would go on and on and on. Silly thought really, because life goes on whether you want it to or not, but I wished it just the same.

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – The Last Goodbye

On this day, January 3rd, I wanted to write this as a tribute to the birthday of J.R.R. Tolkien, and the lasting impact he has had on myself and countless other readers and movie-goers everywhere.

thank you, Professor Tolkien, for enriching my own life and bringing into it the kind of thrill, adventure, and meaning I never could have imagined or expected.

Happy Hump Day, Shows and Events, The Blind Reviewer

The Blind Reviewer: Maleficent

I was so excited, waiting nearly a year for this particular variation of my favourite Disney story to come out, and all ready to review the film here. So what happened?

(Warning: possible spoilers ahead. Don’t get mad at me if you have not yet watched and you learn things you don’t want to. You have been fairly warned. In that case, move along and stop reading, but make a note to return after you’ve viewed the movie.)


It has been several months since that time and I am just getting around to writing this, but not because I hated it so much I backed out. I will explain below, now, finally with the release of Maleficent on DVD (or in whatever the hell form movies are coming out these days) I will try not to spoil the story too much. This is part movie review and part movie comparison.

Sleeping Beauty was my favourite fairy tale Disney cartoon as a child. I loved the fairies, Princess Aurora, and even the wicked Maleficent herself because she was just that frightening and evil, but what made her that way? That’s not really the sort of thing you look too deeply into as a child.

I didn’t know what to expect from this live-action movie. It’s been years since Sleeping Beauty and finally we were getting to hear the story from Maleficent’s point-of-view.

Angelina Jolie is the star of this movie, as it should be and as the title suggests, but she totally steals the spotlight.

In the movie trailer she seems just as evil as I’ve always known her to be. She made me tremble with just a few words, but there is a lot more to this version of the Disney villain.

The narrator helps to set the scene:
Let us tell an old story anew and we will see how well you know it.

Two kingdoms live side by side, a human kingdom and a fairy one, but not harmoniously.

The Moors is the home of all number of mythical, magical creatures, but a young fairy, Maleficent flies over it all, with her giant, powerfully strong wings.

She lives in a tree and hears of a human boy trying to steal from the Pool of Jewels.

She pities him and seeing something in him, lets him explain himself and the border guards back off. She has never seen a human up close. An unlikely friendship begins between the two.

She takes back the jewel the human boy was attempting to steal, tossing it back into the pool: “I didn’t throw it away. I delivered it home, as I’m going to do for you.”

She spares his life and saves him. They are both orphans and find something in each other. He risks danger to return to the Moors, just to see her again. He tosses away a ring made from iron he wears when he hears that iron burns fairies, just so their hands can touch.

He compliments her: “I like your wings,” as any boy might compliment a girl he likes. He came to the Moors, was about to steal a jewel, but ends up stealing her heart, something much more precious.

All the signs point to a love story between these two different races. Perhaps the old war between the two kingdoms is forgotten, but like most stories, the reality of life, the greed and ambition of man gets in the way.

Stefan’s desire, as he grows, grows too. I never would have considered, watching the Disney version as a child, any backstory between Maleficent and King Stefan, but it works well I think.

These two teenagers have had their own perfect version of true love’s first kiss, but the temptation and ambition have grown in Stefan. Maleficent has lost her own chance for any possibility of that iconic first kiss leading to a happy ending and they both lose out on everything they could have had together.

Maleficent is the protector of the Moors and must do so when the king and his army attack, envious and fearful. She is just a winged elf to him and he is no king to her.

He demands her head, but is wounded in battle. This is the perfect opportunity for the increasingly greedy young Stefan to show his loyalty to the kingdom of men. This is where things turned uncomfortable for me.

He uses the history between them to fool Maleficent. He can’t bring himself to kill her, but he does knock her out, using the dreaded iron against her, cutting off her precious wings.

Angelina spoke in interviews of the connection between this act in the movie and the invasion of sexual assault and rape. Of course this doesn’t have to be how this scene is read, but for me this is where the film took on a darker adult meaning, so different from the simple, innocent evil of the classic Disney film.

Angelina moved me, showing her truly perfect casting for this role, when she awakes as Maleficent to find that she has been robbed of her wings.

I could hardly even stand to listen to the scene. Her sounds of pure agony and despair on learning of her loss were difficult to get through. Although I could not see, I found it a hard scene to watch.

Stefan has his proof to present to the dying king and takes position as the newly reining King Stefan. He marries the dead king’s daughter and they have a child: Princess Aurora.

Back in the Moors Maleficent has no way of flying over her land to see what’s going on. One day she comes across the character of Diabal and saves his life. He pledges his loyalty to her from then on.

The pet raven Maleficent has as her loyal companion in Sleeping Beauty becomes a real man at times. Then, as a raven, is able to fly and find out what has become of Stefan.

Upon learning of the birth of the princess Maleficent feels betrayed all the more by Stefan and the well-known evil, hatred, and vengeance grows in her. She uses her magic to put up a wall of thorns around the Moors, just like the wall she puts around her heart. This is more reminiscent of the darkness of Maleficent’s castle in the 1959 film.

It is her rendition of the famous Christening scene that caught my attention with its power and the big way in which she plays it.

Angelina plays this with the right amount of resemblance to the original movie, but with her own spin on just the right touch of evil glee to be heard in her voice as she curses Aurora.

“My my…what an awkward situation.”

Maleficent: Awkward Situation Comparison.

When she pledges to curse the princess to death on her sixteenth birthday by the prick from a spindle of a spinning wheel, it is clear Maleficent wants to hurt King Stefan as much as he has hurt her.

When he begs her to spare his daughter, she says:

“I like you begging. Do it again.”

At first she feeds on his desperation and it makes her feel a little better, but then there is a sudden turn and she seems to soften a little then and reduces the outcome of the curse to only a deep sleep until true love’s first kiss.

It is a scene full of tension and anxiety. Maleficent wants to make Stefan suffer for what he did to her, like a victim of sexual assault who might want the same thing from their perpetrator, no longer believing that true love exists.

“This curse will last until the end of time. No power on earth can change it.”

The fairies aren’t like I know them and love them in Sleeping Beauty. Their names have been changed. They were always a bit useless once they were made to live without their magical powers for the sixteen years it takes to raise Aurora, but although still genuinely good and kind, they have been reduced to something farcical.

They are known, not as fairies, but as pixies. The blue one always reminded me of my grandmother, but in this telling of the story, the pink, green, and blue pixies (one played by the evil Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter), they come across as bumbling, foolish, ridiculous creatures. They have a fluttery wispy sound that grated on my nerves every time I heard it.

The scene where the baby is left crying and they discuss that she must be hungry, yet none of them do anything about it. This is where Maleficent comes in.

In the original film they would never have been so thoughtless. It appears as if they don’t really care for the child very much, not one of the three feeding the poor baby. Maleficent and her companion step in, Maleficent starting with resentment, referring to Aurora as “Beastie”, but she saves her life, more than once.

From then on she is a shadow who is always following and looking over Aurora as she grows. She tries to remain cool and detached, but slowly grows to care for the girl. This is a definite departure from the Disney classic, but it adds a level of depth to the story that nobody would have predicted.

As Maleficent’s heart thaws, it is King Stefan whose heart hardens as the years pass by and he is determined to find Maleficent. He slowly loses touch with reality.

All throughout the omniscient narrator speaks lines about the life Aurora lives, such as:

“Far away from the lofty palace that she remembered not.”

During one particular conversation between Maleficent and Aurora:

“There is an evil in this world, revenge, and hatred.”

Aurora asks Maleficent why she does not possess wings like the other fairies and Maleficent hesitantly explains that she had wings once, but they were taken from her.

She speaks of her long lost wings with wistful sadness. That they were stolen, but that they had been big and strong, never faltering, she could trust them.

These wings were a part of her and it was a terrible violation, what the now king had done by stealing them, removing them like he did.

As for true love, both the king and the “evil” fairy no longer believe.

True love does not exist.

I suppose I found the emphasis on this topic in this version to be the most interesting part.

Perhaps it is the guilt of this act that has eaten away at the king ever since. Perhaps he has blamed himself for the whole mess, for what has happened to his daughter and to the wild fairy he once loved.

As for his daughter, she is a princess, but she does not know it, until the day before her sixteenth birthday. She has confronted the shadow and is not scared of what she discovers. She has developed a strong bond with Maleficent, happy until the pixies inform her who she really is and that she must return to her father, the king.

The scene where Aurora meets a stranger in the woods isn’t at all like the key scene in Sleeping Beauty, but it still leads you to believe he will be the true love who will break the inevitable curse.

Once Upon a Dream, Sleeping Beauty

There is no magical moment when Aurora and Prince Philip dance in a woodland glen, with all the friendly woodland animals watching. It feels like this handsome prince is merely a background character in this updated adaptation. Any feelings of love are slow to grow, unlike the sudden realization of feelings that is a naive idea of love from a child’s point of view in a Disney movie.

Aurora is disillusioned with Maleficent and the pixies and runs to meet her father in the palace, which feels a little unrealistic, but it has gotten her back to where the danger really lies.

Even King Stefan’s insane order to lock her in her room does not prevent the curse from taking effect. She pricks her finger and Maleficent is determined to break the curse, but can it be done?

Does Maleficent really believe she will be able to lift the curse by bringing the prince to the bedside of her darling so-called daughter?

She tries to take back her curse, no longer only two options, good and bad, that are so simplistic, through a child’s eyes; black and white turns to grey.

She has found the stranger from the woods and brings him to the castle and to the sleeping Aurora. The scene builds to a climactic moment, after the more modern hesitation from the young prince, questioning whether he should kiss a girl he has just met.

Everything has been leading up to this. HE finds himself by the sleeping princess’s bedside. They wait with bated breath and you think this is the moment of the movie, the whole point.
Kissing someone without their consent, having not met more than once as he points out, suddenly also becomes something else, becomes more, like an invasion of personal space.

I won’t spoil the next part, in case I have, invariably, convinced you to watch this movie, because in spite of the issues I have with it, in case you couldn’t tell, I think you should.

Maleficent does feel the sorrow of what she has done to her precious Aurora. She admits that she can not be forgiven for it, because what she has done to the poor child is unforgivable, all that time she was so lost with seeking revenge and in hatred. This, perhaps, is the repentance you wouldn’t expect from an evil power like Maleficent, the kind of repentance the king can not realize.

By her bedside she declares:

“I swear no harm will come to you as long as I live and not a day shall pass that I don’t miss your smile.”

The epic climactic battle does not happen in the way you might remember it. It’s the heart of King Stephan, once touched by his feelings for the young Maleficent, that has turned cold and hard. He is beyond all help or hope. He has grown mad in those feelings of hatred and revenge, the same ones Maleficent fought so hard against, they have won out in him..

There is one final, dramatic point, a battle between Maleficent and King Stefan, involving a dragon, and true love does win out, but at a cost. The characters you might expect to end up happily aren’t necessarily the ones who do, but this story is a fairy tale, still grounded in reality and with a more modern touch.

The narrator, which I like very much because she has helped me to understand the story, sums it all up in a beautiful and satisfying manner. All along this invisible voice of the story is someone you may not have guessed.

Angelina Jolie is the star of this whole retelling and her role of Maleficent is one of the best of her career, in this lowly reviewer’s opinion.

This is no longer the sweet little fairy tale of my youth. The lessons are plentiful, on greed and envy, jealousy and revenge, true love and cruelty. The two worlds are so different and it is a constant struggle, a battle at times, to see if the two worlds can get along and live happily side by side.
Like most stories, the humans are the greedy ones, fearing magic and seeking to take its power.

Good and evil, black and white are no longer at the heart of it. This is a nice follow-up piece to the original Disney version of Sleeping Beauty, made fifty-five years earlier.

The three good fairies I loved so much, the pixies of this film, are the things I like least in this version. The one whose supposedly evil and her bird/wolf/man are my favourite characters.

My feelings were constantly on a roller coaster, from start to finish of this film. I hurt and I smiled. I would give Angelina’s performance a 5 out of 5, while the rest of the movie I would give a solid 4 for its fairy tale style, mixed with its modern-day themes.

In the end, it’s the true love in the unlikely relationship between Maleficent and Aurora that is the nice surprise of this film, true love between the two you never, on watching the original, would have guessed. This alteration in this updated version was a bewildering one and yet, a sweet change in direction of plot and story.

The true love of a man does not always have to be the answer, but it still ends up rounding out the story rather sweetly.

For you true love fans, you romantic fairy tale lovers who cling to childhood ideals like myself, it is nice to see.

So apparently we did not know this particular favourite of mine quite as well as we, or at least, as well as I thought I did. This was an unexpected surprise, and a mostly pleasant one at that.

It ends happily ever after, as a fairy tale is supposed to. The Moors become a bright beautiful place once more.

The kingdoms unify and Princess Aurora is crowned Queen, having been the narrator all along.

The two kingdoms are at peace with one another, in the end:

“Brought together not by hero or villain as legend predicted. But by both.”

That is what makes Maleficent and indeed the actress who plays her so spellbinding and what made all the other little annoyances I felt throughout worth watching.

Of course I can’t write this review without highlighting the musical tone provided for this film, by the haunting voice of Lana Del Ray:

Once Upon a Dream

It’s a lesson in growing up and learning about the good and the bad in people. It totally changed my perspective on this most famous of Disney tales, but in a way I won’t soon forget.

If you are a fan of the 1959 film Sleeping Beauty or even if you are not, go see Maleficent. Rent it. Watch it. Download it. You will have a good time.

History, Special Occasions, This Day In Literature, Writing

The Great Fitzgerald and the Banning of the Book

“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
– F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned

This Day in Literature: writer Francis Scott Fitzgerald was born in 1896 in St. Paul, Minnesota

He is one of America’s best loved authors of the 20th century. His life was marred by turbulence and tragedy, not ever really receiving the kind of recognition or status he might have liked. He was able to make a living, whether from short stories, his handful of novels, or Hollywood scripts. His life was simply brought to an end much too soon.

Fitzgerald represents America in the 1920s and the jazz age and the start of a fleeting materialism, pre-Great Depression era materialism..

He rose to fame quickly and this fame ended too soon, with his premature death in late 1940 from a heart attack.

He wrote his greatest novel, “The Great Gatsby”, when he moved from the U.S. to France in 1924-25 when the novel was published. France was surely thought to be a much more conducive environment for creativity.

His love story with Zelda is one for the ages, being refused his proposal until he could support her. He returned to her after the publication of his first novel, “This Side of Paradise”, and they were married. They had a daughter, Francis, his name sake. He went on to battle depression and alcoholism and her depression, required treatment in a mental insitution. I am highly curious about their relationship and I am sure there is much to it that is unknown, but how much of it could have just as easily been written into one of his extravagant stories?

I do not know about him like some probably do, but when I finally got to reading Gatsby last year (in preparation for the Leonardo DiCaprio film to arrive in theatres), I felt a strange thing; I had an odd sense that I was meeting Fitzgerald, or a certain version of him on screen. Leo played Gatsby, but to me he could just as easily have been Fitzgerald himself. It can’t be an accident and I am most likely not the only one to see it, likely because he put some of himself into his characters. What was autobiographical and what was purely fiction and a snapshot of the times?

I may have the unpopular opinion here and I mean no disrespect to the long-deceased writer, but the movie brought The Great Gatsby to life for me in a way that the book itself did not. I was stunned into silence by certain lines and passages in the novel, but overall the movie made a stronger impact. This is not usually the case for me.

(The movie came out before I started this blog, but I will be writing a backtracking movie review of The Great Gatsby here soon, but on this day I will focus specifically on Fitzgerald himself.)

Of course if it weren’t for F. Scott Fitzgerald, the man, there wouldn’t be any story to be brought to life by Leo and others. I can only say that his greatest novel, “The Great Gatsby”, represents a certain early decade in the century of my birth, one that seems so far in the distance for me and yet not so far as to be unimaginable.

I thank F. Scott Fitzgerald today for writing that story of grandeur and excess of the rich in 1920s society, with one mysterious man named Gatsby.


Also, This Week in Literature: Banned Books Week!

Out of all the books I have read or hope to read I don’t believe many or any of which are considered banned books. I would be interested in hearing thoughts on this from anyone else.

I know the issue of censorship is a complex one. I also know how lucky I am to live in Canada, a place where I am free to read whatever the hell I want. I know too that if a book is controversial enough I can’t say I would be so open, but the need for a week like this is intriguing to me. I hope to investigate it further in future years.

Have you read many “banned books” or how do you feel about the term or the act of banning any type of literature?

Shows and Events, The Blind Reviewer

Can Men and Women Really Be Just Friends?

Note: Possible spoilers ahead, but I try to stick mostly to vagueness and hinting, preferring to speak mostly on character and theme. Hope you enjoy my review.


This movie sets out to answer the question: can two people of the opposite sex really be just friends?

I suppose this is why I really wanted to see this movie. Sure, Harry Potter himself stars in it, but I don’t think that was my main driving force for watching.

I have always been baffled and fascinated by the above question. Everyone has their own opinions and experiences with this. I’m not just talking friendly or occasional acquaintances though. I mean more like best friends who hang out together on a weekly basis, one-on-one.

Daniel and Zoe play two such friends.

Daniel Radcliffe’s character Wallace is a med school drop-out who stopped trying, in his career and in love.

After catching his x with someone else he dropped out of a valuable future in medicine. The mistakes of his parents were ones he was afraid he was doomed, himself, to end up making.

Now he lives in his sister’s attic, does not get out much, and is his nephew’s only male role model.

His luck changes when he meets a girl at a party, thrown by his friend and college roommate, played by Adam Driver (Hannah’s on-again off-again love interest on the hit HBO series Girls).

Wallace and Chantry (played by Zoe Kazan) strike up a conversation and it turns out their connection is instant, rare, and undeniable.

All goes well, until the walk home when, after exchanging numbers, she casually mentions her boyfriend will be wondering what happened to her.

Against his better judgment, Wallace agrees to be just friends, but tells himself he won’t see this girl again.

Fate has other plans for these two when they meet up at a showing of The Princess Bride, two of them each seeing a movie alone and during the week. They decide to be friends from then on and spend the rest of the film trying to balance their growing and disguised feelings for one another with their expectations on life and on love. After all, Chantry is in a long-term relationship and, after losing her mother at a young age, does not believe in giving up, all while trying to go by the lessons her mother’s death have taught her on holding on to what’s truly good in your life.

Wallace has learned that love is messy and complex, but to intrude on other people’s relationships is just plain wrong. His hard lessons from his previous relationship and his parents’ have made him unwilling to do what it would take to win his best friend’s affections.

Allan is the best friend you’d want to have, (except maybe when he leaves you naked on a beach overnight). He is sarcastic and funny and full of great advice about the messiness of love and relationships. Some of his advice goes something like this:

“Love is messy and complex. If it’s simple you don’t try and if you don’t try you won’t.”

If you follow? 🙂

I may have misquoted a little, but something about that line from Adam’s character struck a cord with me. Maybe you have to hear him saying it to understand. I would recommend you check out the movie, just to hear him say those particular lines. They were touching, uplifting, and so strangely true (emphasis on the strangely).

I will admit that some of the dialogue in this film was all over the place and hard to get at times. At certain points, when watching, I had to ask myself and my sister sitting next to me, “What?” and she could no better explain it to me, but this is what made this particular movie experience so pleasant and different.

Sure, the story of a young guy and girl trying to hide their feelings from one another is not new; however, this romantic comedy delivered on heart and fun. We laughed uncontrollably several times: my sister from a few of the physically humorous scenes and myself from just the sheer oddness of what I was seeing. I was drawn in and Daniel does a good job, although admittedly it is hard to see him in any other roles, without my mind going back to his once-in-a-lifetime role as Harry Potter. That is something, undoubtedly, that he is working to distance himself from for both his audience and for himself.

His character in The F Word is smart and witty and a good guy, just the kind you might want as a best friend or possibly more. I left the theatre smiling and laughing. The writing really is bazaar and a bit out-there at times, but I found that pleasing and a refreshing change from the usual. I still didn’t have any final answers to the question of whether or not girls and guys can be just friends, but I suppose the best questions in life have no true answers.

The F Word originally premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival and the city of Toronto is the setting for this story. With a distinct homey feel (for me) with backgrounds such as The CN Tower and familiar streets and other locations, I somehow felt at home when watching. The F Word is up against such blockbusters as Guardians of the Galaxy and the updated version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. For a somewhat smaller movie by comparison, this film comes across nicely and is more my cup of tea.

Check out a small taste



I couldn’t believe it when I read how this movie is called one thing in Canada, where I live, and another in the States. Daniel seems to have a problem with having his movie titles altered: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and now The F Word to What If?

WHAT IF the title had been left alone? What horrors would have befallen, I wonder? What would you think if I had titled this post The F Word? Would you automatically jump to the wrong conclusion? Would that have prevented you from reading or have been just the thing to grab your attention and want to read more?

What do you think about this change in titles? Do you think it necessary?

Also: what do you think? In your own experience, can men and women be just friends, or is their almost always more going on?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these matters.

The Blind Reviewer

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Friends and family have seen Wes Anderson’s latest on-screen masterpiece and they highly recommended I see it too.

I haven’t been a huge fan of Wes’s films in the past, one or another, here or there maybe. It is undeniable, however, that his style of making movies is different, in our time, from most other modern blockbuster films and their celebrated directors and writers. This one sounded interesting. A hotel in the thirties, I love historical time periods in films. The wide assortment of well-known actors sweetened the deal.

(Beware! Possible spoilers ahead!)

I have had some issues in the past (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug) and so it’s never certain the service will be up and working, but it makes it easier for myself and my companion to both be able to concentrate and enjoy the movie.

Not all theatres offer the DVS (descriptive video service) for their movies, so it takes planning to find out where to go. The Grand Budapest Hotel isn’t the latest blockbuster and is not in a super wide release.
I placed the headset on as the movie began and it was a good sign when the older woman’s voice came through, in my ears.

His movies have an odd and out of place feeling to them, in and amongst most movies of today. The Grand Budapest is no exception. From the very beginning the style is Anderson’s own unique feel.
The movie takes place in eastern Europe. From a snowy graveyard to the snowy countryside, on trains and in giant estates and the hotel, the basis for most of the movie.

It took a while to follow the time changes, the three separate stories, through three different generations. This creates a highly effective layering of story lines and also of the lives of the characters.
The film begins with a girl reading a book, the book written by an author about the hotel and this feels like it is speaking directly to me, as a reader, as a writer, and as a movie fan.

One article I saw on the movie was entitled, “Grand Budapest Hotel is more than Fiennes, it’s wonderful”; aptly named in my opinion, thanks to the talent of the main character. A favourite of mine, Ralph Fiennes, plays the main starring role and his portrayal in this film is another stellar performance to be sure. He plays Monsieur Gustave, a mysterious hotel manager in a fictional country (a mixture of Russia, Romania, etc) during the thirties. He plays this character with humour and skill. He is witty, flirtatious, and clever. It is hard not too root for him all the way through.

The author is old when the story begins and he is retelling, speaking about the time he stayed at the Grand Budapest and wrote about its history.

The first flashback, soon into the film, is of this writer’s experience while staying at the hotel. He meets the elderly owner and manager and learns through this reclusive man the story of how he came to be there.
Once again we are brought back even further, from the eighties to the sixties to the thirties, where most of the movie takes place.

This film has a little bit of everything: luxury and opulence, wartime struggle, mystery and suspense, intrigue and murder. A painting of a boy eating an apple. This particular painting belonged to a very wealthy old woman who Ralph’s character has been having a relationship with. When she suddenly ends up dead the fight for the painting begins, between the old lady’s family and Fiennes’s character, Monsieur Gustave.

Gustave has a new lobby boy working with him who soon becomes his confidant, partner in crime, and best friend. Zero is a memorable name and describes his ranking. However, there is just enough mystery in Monsieur Gustave’s past to give hope that Zero could one day be where he now is. Both their pasts are unknown, suggesting a possible orphaned childhood or loss of family, leaving them essentially all alone in the world, until coming across one another.

As Gustave and Zero embark on a journey which begins with the two of them stealing the painting, chaos ensues. Gustave is charged and sent to a harsh prison, where he and some fellow inmates decide to break out, with the help of Zero and the Budapest cake decorator. A romance develops between Zero and this young girl.

Zero soon will do anything to help his protege. From there the old woman’s family members chase the painting, which Gustave and Zero have hidden away, all the way to the Budapest. The climactic scene involves the young girl and turns into a shoot-out across the hotel.

This movie ends badly on many levels. It is no happy romantic ending, not in the true movie sense of the term. Zero loses the little family he had, but he has continued to hold on to the hotel that meant so much, where he met the love of his life and family in the most unexpected of ways.
The young writer decides to capture all of this in a book, as he sits down in the lobby of the hotel to write down all that the elderly Zero has retold to him.

Wes Anderson is able to take this movie and turn it into a nostalgic look at a time long gone. He combines artsy with action-packed chase scenes down a ski slope and a bobsled track. He dares to be bold in how he chooses to make his movies, in a time when modern special effects are everywhere.
As a fan of old movies, it is a nice break to see the kind of smart writing style of today mixed with the old vintage feel of the cinematic past.