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05 January 2009 @ 02:30 am
On the eleventh day of Christmas, blamebrampton gave to me  
Some RL recs that will make you happy!

(it was going to be more notes, but I have BRUISES from sadistic massage man. I am now ruling Chinese massage of my list and sticking to Swedish and Thai.)

Most years I could not begin to tell you my favourites of anything. One will last for a few days, another for a few weeks. I think that King Lear will always be my favourite play, and that is pretty much my only constancy with The Arts (maybe Leonardo's cartoon in the National Gallery is my fave drawing, but even that's been known to change now and then).

In 2008, though, I had clear and obvious favourites in the categories of film, novel and video. I have spent months raving to people about them and lending out my copies, and now it's your turn to sit through the glee. I promise it will be quick.

The number one film was and is Iron Man. I know The Dark Knight was a better film, and it had a deep and abiding impact on me, too. But for the reasons I went on about at great length back in May, I'm still a Tony Stark supporter. If only because he's so much less emo than the Batman. I should mention here that I have not yet seen Loved You So Long, which will probably be my fave for 2009.

My favourite books were both YA and both by the same author. In a year where no literary fiction really caught my attention, I fell heavily for Flora Segunda of Crackpot Hall and Flora's Dare. I am cheating a little here, because I read the first at the end of 2007, but it seems ridiculous to pimp just a sequel. Ysabeau Wilce is one of those rare writers whose skill at world building and characterisation is matched with a genuine love with and flair for language. The Spanish-touched patois of her characters seemed instantly familiar even to my resolutely Anglo ears and was a seamless part of an imaginary world where the great-grandchildren of psuedo-steampunk versions of the Conquistadors and Mayans held a troubled truce around a country that was once held together by great magic and brave women.

Flora's first adventure is a domestic one, where she tries to save her great but crumbling house despite the madness of her father and inattentiveness of her General mother. To do so, she enlists the help of a magical butler who offers all types of help, but at a significant cost. To save herself she can only count on the writings of Nini-Mo, the greatest ranger who ever lived, Udo, her tall male friend who wears far too much make-up and hair product, and her own ability to be level headed when she'd rather descend into a fit of screaming abdabs.

Flora's Dare takes up a little later with her father now sane, her older sister back, but badly, and Udo wearing even more make-up and smearing it over utterly appalling people. Which would matter less were Flora not caught in the middle of treasonous intrigue.

The plots are impossible to condense, but the writing is a joy, and there's a third part appearing some time soon (ish).

The Author Formerly Known as Mistful put me onto Wilce, and I add another tick to her list of good recs (she also recced the fourth-worst YA book I have ever read, so tread a little carefully if you buy according to her list).

My favourite video of 2008 was The Insider's Guide To Happiness, which is a New Zealand television series from a few years ago. I remember seeing the ads for it on SBS and thinking it looked good, but I missed its first run. Now I own the DVDs and they may actually wear out at some point. Eight Kiwis are brought together thanks to a mushroom-and-karma-caused ambulance accident in Wellington. Matthew, who dies in the accident, narrates the story as we follow each of them on their path from where they are in their lives at the start, to genuine happiness, which each of them finds by the end. (Including Matthew, who has a not-dead stint through the middle episodes.)

It's another story that can't be encapsulated, but you will care about each and every one of these characters because they are all real and fucked up at the same time as being delightful and capable of great good. Buddhist monks, Samoan nationalists, a multi-million dollar lottery win (which is literally thrown away), tabloid TV, hairdressing and bungee jumping all come together to kick along plot points.

I loaned it to a dear friend, who recently returned it. She hugged the DVD case and said 'Wow! I just, they just ...' 'You feel like they're your friends?' I prompted. 'Yeah. Except funnier than most of mine,' she replied.

It's available on some torrents and, for those who have the cash and would like to do poor New Zealand a cheap (it's somewhere around the US$25 mark for the 13-part series) favour, it's available by mail order from many sites. It made me smile every week when it was on telly, and I caught every episode, which is practically unheard of in this house.

down the hills and round the bendsnorton_gale on January 4th, 2009 04:37 pm (UTC)
If you say The Insider's Guide is good, I believe you! Thanks for the sweet message about me you left on your username post, by the way. That must have taken so much effort to do your entire flist!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 4th, 2009 04:45 pm (UTC)
I'm not quite halfway through (sobs!)

It really does make you happy! It's just one of those things where the acting, the writing, the concept, the locations ... all of it comes together to make something that is really, really good (even with a handful of silly or sad moments).
uminohikariuminohikari on January 4th, 2009 07:51 pm (UTC)
What is an abdab? The dictionary does not have it
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 4th, 2009 09:34 pm (UTC)
The heebie jeebies!
i can see your house from herewho_la_hoop on January 4th, 2009 08:09 pm (UTC)
Oooh, I must say that Flora sounds like a total rip-off of Flora from Cold Comfort Farm. Does that not detract from the books? *intrigued*

The massage sounds terrifying...!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 4th, 2009 09:33 pm (UTC)
That must just be my bad synopsis skills. It really couldn't be less like in many ways! (Slightly similar in broadest concept)
★★ C. Gabriel Wright ★★: gen: obama.otpgabe_speaks on January 4th, 2009 09:36 pm (UTC)
I urge you to see Slumdog Millionaire.

I really don't see how anyone could see it and not consider it the best of 2008, but I'll kindly allow you to consider it for the 2009 running. ;-)

Aren't I nice?

Unless of course you were specifically targeting action movies, upon which I agree with you on the Iron Man vs Batman issue[s].
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 4th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
I don't know if I can, I loathed the book that it is based on with a burning passion like fiery suns! Though the kid from Skins is always good.
★★ C. Gabriel Wright ★★gabe_speaks on January 4th, 2009 10:01 pm (UTC)
Well, you're one up on me; I didn't even know it had been a novel!

But yeah, Iron Man... that could have been shit on so many levels, yet they managed to pull it off with leaps and bounds. That reminds me: I need the DVD!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 4th, 2009 10:09 pm (UTC)
Avoid the novel. I was a bit meh about it from the start and then it turned rabidly homophobic and I hated it by the end.

(I haven't bought the Iron Man DVD in case it's not as good as I remember, I'd rather it stay perfect in my head ;-)
Voldemoofrantic_mice on January 4th, 2009 11:22 pm (UTC)
I lovaged The Fall soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much. Then again I'm totes in love with Lee Pace and think he's the prettiest thing since audrey hepburn.

Here's him dancing:

The Fall review from IMDb:
If you have not seen, or in fact, heard, of this movie, let me be the first to tell you about it.

This was and is the sort of experience that first enraptured and astounded me as regards to the movies. A story told in such a way as to become a part of your awareness, a gentle reminder of the fantastic, mythical and magical components of what is best in humanity whilst not forgetting what it means to be human.

Breathtaking does not even begin to describe the cinematography. The colors, the framing, costumes, lighting, and the backdrops are gorgeous; like something out of a dream. If this was just a visually moving film, that would be enough but there is so much more.

Tarsem Singh's direction is possessed. He manages to capture a kaleidoscope of emotion as diverse and generous as the tones and colors that deliver this movable feast for the eyes. His motley casting of relatively unknown actors is inspiring and refreshing.

The acting is extraordinary. Both poignant and comical, this journey of heartbreak and revenge, of discovery and friendship is conveyed with joy, witticism, curiosity and a vulnerability that is so rare in life, never mind in movies, it left me humbled. Especially the young Romanian girl, Catinca Untaru, who, not only made her big screen debut in this movie but is the heart and soul of the film in a breakthrough performance that I am sure will garner rave reviews.

It is my sincerest hope that you find this movie as emotive, tender and touching as I.

I TOTES agree. PLUS!! It took like 5 yrs and was shot in like every continent in the world I think? LOVAGEDEET SO MUCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I think u will too. Thou I can't be rly objective because of that madcrazed Pace-crush. :)))))))))))

blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 6th, 2009 02:34 am (UTC)
HEE! Well, I am all for subjective lovage of filmage!

I will hunt it down and watch it, and get back to you!
Sorrel, the artist formerly known as goddessleilasorrelchestnut on January 5th, 2009 12:02 am (UTC)
Out of curiosity, what was the fourth-worst YA book that author-formerly-known-as-Mistful recced?
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 6th, 2009 02:33 am (UTC)
Well, it was the fourth worst on MY list, which is why I won't tell you about it in case your list is completely different. Millions of people love Twilight and The Fountainhead, after all, while I consider them two exceptions to my anti bookburning rule (so long as the burning is used to provide warmth to the needy ;-)

And my recs probably fall foul of some taste, too, which is fine. If we were all alike, things would be very dull!
Sorrel, the artist formerly known as goddessleilasorrelchestnut on January 6th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
I enjoyed reading the first Twilight book but the second book was so bad that it ruined the first for me, and I never bothered to read the third or fourth books. From what I've heard, I was better off that way.

I'm actually just curious as to what she recced that you didn't like. I'm always fascinated by people's opinions about books- and *why* they have those opinions- and it doesn't bother me in the least if I don't agree with them. I might make flaily hands and go "But-but-but it was awesome!" but it doesn't actually *bother* me, not really.
oceaxeoceaxe on January 5th, 2009 12:34 am (UTC)
I liked Flora Segunda a lot, but didn't know there was a sequel. Will read soon!

Speaking of SRB's recs... I got The House of Many Ways (sequel to Howl's Moving Castle) for Christmas, and devoured it yesterday. It's delightful, but I mostly enjoyed it because I kept imagining Charmain, the main character, as Sarah. If you read it, I'm sure you'll see why.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 6th, 2009 02:30 am (UTC)
I DID read that, and yes, I can completely see what you mean. I devoured it, too, DWJ books never last long around me. But that was a few months ago, which may mean it's time for a re-read ;-)

You will like Flora's Dare, it's a good spot of growth for the characters and world without suffering from any of the symptoms of sequelitis. Though I had to laugh when Sarah wrote in her LJ recently that the second book of a trilogy is for snogging; you'll know what I mean once you finish!
snottygrrl on January 5th, 2009 07:19 am (UTC)
you know nearly every acting friend i know has a bit in that series somewhere. heee!
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 6th, 2009 02:27 am (UTC)
They did a very good set of jobs! I love very few things on TV, but I actually love Insider's Guide. It DOES make me happy!
Sarah Rees Brennansarahtales on January 6th, 2009 01:30 am (UTC)
*beams* I am glad to have given a good rec, though devouringly curious as to which rec you found dreadful. There are some I regret recommending on re-reads: Flora definitely not among them!
(Anonymous) on January 6th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
I am of the firm belief that there's no point sharing books I find dreadful unless they are so utterly without merit that I should do it as a public service, since millions of people adore Twilight while it brings me out in a rash. So I hope you'll understand me staying mum!

Flora, on the other hand, has been given to young friends for birthdays, recced in a couple of Australian mags and generally pressed upon anyone who will stand still and listen, including a nice young girl in the bookshop. The only thing I have enjoyed so much lately (aside from the ever-fabulous Diana Wynne Jones) was Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, which has a similar richness of language and depth of imaginary world. Not to mention an attack goose named Saracen. I heartily recommend it on the very off chance you've not read it yet.
blamebramptonblamebrampton on January 6th, 2009 02:26 am (UTC)
Oops! That was me!
emansil_08 on January 6th, 2009 03:20 pm (UTC)
I just added you as a friend. I hope it's okay, and please feel free to add me back.

I think I know you more as "BAbybaby" from Frantic_mice