domenica 19 novembre 2017

La luce fantastica - Terry Pratchett



"  Ankh-Morpork!
   La perla delle città!
   Naturalmente questa non è una descrizione troppo accurata (la città non è tonda e lucente). Ma anche i suoi peggiori nemici converrebbero che, dovendo paragonarla a qualche cosa, si poteva definirla un mucchio di immondizia ricoperto della secrezione malata di un mollusco morente.
   Ci sono state città più grandi. Ci sono state città più ricche. Di certo ci sono state città più graziose. Ma nessuna città del multiverso poteva rivaleggiare in fetore con Ankh-Morpork.
   Gli Antichi, che sanno tutto degli universi e hanno annusato gli odori di Calcutta, di !Xrc-! e dell'incredibile Marsport, hanno convenuto che perfino simili magnifici esempi di poesia olfattiva sono nulla se paragonati alla gloria dell'odore di Ankh-Morpork. 
   Si può parlare di puzzole. Si può parlare di aglio. Si può parlare della Francia. E di altro ancora. Ma se uno non ha annusato 'aria di Ankh-Morpork, in una giornata di grande caldo, non sa che cosa sia il fetore.
   I suoi cittadini ne vanno fieri. Portano le sedie fuori per goderselo in una giornata particolarmente buona. Gonfiano le guance, si battono sul petto e ne commentano allegri le varie sfumature. Gli hanno perfino eretto una statua per commemorare quella volta quando le truppe di uno stato rivale avevano tentato di prendere la città di sorpresa in una notte buia ed erano riuscite ad arrivare in cima alle mura prima che cessassero di funzionare i tamponi che si erano messi nel naso. Ricchi mercanti che hanno trascorso all'estero molti anni si fanno venire da casa bottiglie specialmente confezionate e sigillate di quella "essenza", che gli fa venire le lacrime agli occhi, dalla commozione.
   Ecco che effetto ha.
   C'è soltanto un modo per descrivere l'effetto sul naso dei visitatori  del puzzo di Ankh-Morpork: per analogia.
   Prendete un tartan scozzese. Cospargetelo di coriandoli. Illuminatelo con luci stroboscopiche.
   Adesso prendete un camaleonte.
   Mettete il camaleonte sul tartan.
   Osservate con attenzione.
   Vedete? " 




"  Era una notte tranquilla, colorata dalla promessa dell'alba. La luna crescente stava tramontando. Ankh-Morpork, la più grande città delle terre intorno al Mare Circolare, riposava.
Affermazione non del tutto vera.
Da un lato, i quartieri della città che di solito svolgevano attività quali, per esempio vendere verdure, ferrare cavalli, intagliare piccoli squisiti ornamenti di giada, cambiare denaro e fabbricare tavoli in complesso, dormivano. A meno che gli abitanti non soffrissero d'insonnia. O, come succede, si fossero alzati di notte per recarsi in bagno. D'altro lato, molti cittadini meno osservanti delle regole erano svegli e occupati, per esempio, a scavalcare finestre che non gli appartenevano, a tagliare gole, a derubarsi, ad ascoltare musica a tutto volume in cantine fumose e in generale, a divertirsi un sacco. Ma quasi tutti gli animali erano addormentati, a eccezione dei ratti. E anche dei pipistrelli naturalmente. Quanto agli insetti....
   Il fatto è che molto raramente la prosa descrittiva è del tutto accurata e durante il regno di Olaf Quimby II, Patrizio di Ankh, vennero approvati provvedimenti legislativi per cercare di mettere fine a questo genere di cose e introdurre un po' di onestà nel racconto. Così, se una leggenda diceva di un eroe tanto famoso che "tutti gli uomini parlavano delle sue prodezze", subito qualsiasi bardo che avesse cara la vita aggiungeva "salvo che per un paio di tizi nel suo villaggio natale che lo reputavano un ladro e un sacco di altra gente che in realtà non aveva mai sentito parlare di lui". Una similitudine poetica era strettamente limitata ad affermazioni quali "il suo potente destriero era rapido come il vento in una giornata calma, diciamo forza tre". E i discorsi su una fanciulla amata, con un viso capace di varare un migliaio di navi, dovrebbero essere supportati dalla prova che l'oggetto del desiderio aveva in effetti l'aspetto di una bottiglia di champagne. 
   Alla fine Quimby fu ucciso da un poeta scontento durante un esperimento condotto sui terreni del palazzo per provare la controversa accuratezza del proverbio "La penna è più forte della spada". Proverbio che in memoria del Patrizio è stato emendato per includervi la frase "soltanto se la spada è molto piccola e la penna molto appuntita".
   Così, circa il sessantasette, forse il sessantotto per cento della città dormiva. "




"  E' una cosa risaputa che guerrieri e maghi non vanno d'accordo. Questi ultimi considerano gli altri una manica di idioti assetati di sangue, incapaci di camminare e parare allo stesso tempo; mentre i primi sono per natura sospettosi di una corporazione di uomini che borbottano parole incomprensibili e indossano lunghe vesti. Oh, dicono i maghi, se noi siamo così, che dire di tutti quei collari borchiati e muscoli oleati giù all'Associazione Pagana dei Giovani? Al che gli eroi ribattono che è una bella asserzione da farsi da parte di una'accolta di mollaccioni i quali non si avvicinano a una donna con il pretesto (lo credereste?) di essere in qualche modo privati del loro potere mistico. Giusto, dicono i maghi, è proprio così, voi e le  vostre palle in bella mostra. Oh sì, dicono gli eroi, perché voi non...
   E via di questo passo. Roba del genere è andata avanti da secoli ed ha originato una quantità tremenda di battaglie che hanno lasciato inabitabili grandi porzioni di terra a causa delle frequenze magiche.
   In realtà, l'eroe che in quello stesso momento galoppava verso le Pianure del Vortice non s'impicciava di una simile discussione, primo perché non la prendeva sul serio. Ma principalmente perché quel particolare eroe era un'eroina. Una dai capelli rossi.
   Ora, arrivati a questo punto, c'è la tendenza a guardare sopra la spalla dell'artista che disegna la copertina e cominciare a dilungarsi su cuoio, stivali fino alla coscia e lame nude.
   Parole come "pieno", "rotondo" e perfino "provocante" s'insinuano nel racconto finché lo scrittore è costretto a farsi una doccia e stendersi.
   Il che è piuttosto sciocco. Infatti, ogni donna che si accinge a guadagnarsi la vita con la spada, non se ne va in giro con l'aspetto di una ragazza in mostra sulla copertina del catalogo dell'ultimo tipo di biancheria intima per compratore specializzato.
   Oh, va bene. E' necessario precisare il fatto che, sebbene Herrena, la Rossa Harridan, diventerebbe davvero una bomba dopo un buon bagno, una manicure come si deve e la miglior scelta di aggeggi in cuoio del negozio di Articoli Esotici Orientai di Woo Hun Ling e in quello di Arti Marziali di Via degli Eroi, di solito lei si vestiva comodamente con una leggera cotta di maglia e morbidi stivali e portava una corta spada.
   Va bene, forse gli stivali erano di cuoio. Ma non neri.
   Cavalcava con lei un gruppetto di uomini dalla pelle scura, i quali saranno comunque uccisi fra non molto tempo; pertanto probabilmente una descrizione non è essenziale. Nessuno di loro presentava nulla di provocante.
   Sentite, se vi piace, possono pure essere vestiti di pelle.  "











A presto,
Serena

domenica 12 novembre 2017

Commento ergo sum: Riverdale - season 1


Once again, I'm hopping on the cool-kids bandwagon way to late for someone to care. 
It would be frustrating for me, except: A) I'm writing these reviews for my own amusement, and the fact that I'm switching between English and Italian without any rhyme or reason should be a good indicator of that; B) I need some degree of inspiration to impose myself an entire season of a show... especially when it's the nth teen-drama following ridiculously attractive non-teenager in the a fictional American small town. 
That being said, I was kinda drawn in by the fact that this series is an adaptation of what else? a comic book.... Granted, a comic book I've never heard of before, but still. Also, it comes in thirteen, ready-to-use episodes, instead of the canon twenty-something. The only hitch is that THE INTERNET has struck again: I sadly started Season One only after being spoiled about basically everything.


Plot-wise, Riverdale hits all the bullet points in the necessary-CW-teen-drama-stereotypes checklist: we have attractive fake-teenagers, dark secrets in a small town, tons of abs.... And of course, we could have not done without -damn it- the very unnecessary voice-over narration. I know it probably bugs me more than anyone else because I have an open feud with this horrific gimmick, but: CW, do you really think we need you to spell all those banalities out to comment the episode events? We, audience, are smarter than that. Even if we are watching you constantly. (This sentence is food for thought, actually. Serena, go in a corner and think hard about your life).

I'm "writing a book" and I'll repeat you that «a murder occurred on the 4th of July» at the beginning of EVERY episode.
Like you would forget otherwise -_-

From now on SPOILERS, people.


The first episode opens with the voice-over explaining the events of the previous summer in Riverdale: Jason Blossom, heir to the Blossom Maple Syrup Empire (apparently, it's a thing) and twin brother of one of the main characters, Cheryl, has disappeared and probably drowned during a boat trip with his sister on the 4th of July. After an entire summer without any lead or body found, the whole town is just  now starting to recover and to get some closure with the upcoming empty-casket funeral of Jason.
The characters that we follow are instead a group of high school students that, for one reason or another, find themselves linked and then in the middle of the murder investigation. Because, as television's history teaches us, adults are generally useless in fictional murder investigations.

Very solid police work

Archie Andrews is the redhead titular character of the comics, football player and aspiring musician, whose best friend is the literal girl-next-door Betty Cooper, all-around sweet girl... or so it seems. Of course, the beginning of the school year sees the arrival of Veronica Lodge new, mysterious but confident and outspoken girl in town, who is obviously going to change the duo dynamic. Other characters are: Jughead, outcast, voice-over guilty party and -dammit- my favorite, Cheryl, twins sister of  the disappeared Jason, mean girl, maybe psychotic but very entertaining and Kevin, tenured gay BFF and son of the sheriff. Also: the Pussycats, emerging girl band that every now and then shows up to haunt you with impossibly catchy renditions of pop songs.

Since the very beginning of the episode, we are clearly introduced to the hang-in-balance relationship of the two classic neighbors-best-friends-since-childhood Betty and Archie (she likes him but isn't brave enough to tell him, he probably knows but he's merrily avoiding the subject) and the arrival of the intriguing Veronica. In that regard, I wanted to mention how the actual "entrance scene" is well-played and has this sort of "iconic" style. Super-clichè-y but also very effective. It sets a tone, which works.... in a way.


It is one of those scenes that seems to be staged for the trailer, just like (way more patently) the girl-on-girl kiss between Betty and Veronica that doesn't have a shred of sense for the Pilot's storyline or the fact that everyone is wandering half naked or getting changed in front of windows without curtains (males and females alike, for gender equality...)

From what I'm told, in the comic the main character dynamic is, as a matter of fact, the love-triangle Betty-Archie-Veronica and that is also what I was very afraid to be stuck with for the entire season, judging from the aforementioned scene.
Luckily, the issue is put to rest in a very reasonable way in the first few episodes, with a partial resolution that leaves open to future rehashing (Archie very much friend-zones Betty. Full stop.), but is also believably (considering the context) dealt with, without over the top situations or hasty patch-up work.
My point is: I know that this theme is probably going to resurface in later seasons and I'm sort-of OK with it (more accurately, resigned), but I'm also happy that for now it is not the only, obsessive focus of the show. I've seen way too much of Gossip Girl, or even How I met your mother, to have patience for the umpteenth, unimaginative, eternally dragged love-triangle. Or maybe it is just because I actually enjoy the infamous Jughead-Betty ship and I'm not ready to see it sink.

I so hope NOT, it's not even funny

Speaking of resurfacing: guess who's found floating in the river with a bullet wound in the forehead? Jason, exactly. A peculiar way to drown, if you ask me. This kicks off what is now officially a murder investigation.

As always in these investigative pretenses for drama, at every episode new details come out to explain some truths while introducing ten more secrets and no character is in the clear.
For example, we discover that the initial “disappearance” was staged by Jason and Cheryl to allow him to escape, that several people had motives to hit the Blossoms by hitting Jason, including Veronica’s father (that we never see because he’s in jail for a white collar crime, but somehow he is mentioned at least 5 times per episode and creates more trouble than all the other adults in flesh and blood), Jughead's gang-affiliated drunken father and Betty's controlling parents. And, of course, most of the revelations are uncovered by Betty and Jughead (and also Kevin) that, with the excuse of writing in the school journal, go around Scooby Doo-ing left and right. I think they properly referenced the Scooby Doo cartoon or the Mystery Machine at some point... They for sure mention Nancy Drew about five thousands times, though.

But I’m not here to tell point-by-point the story of the murder investigation because, first of all, it would be incredibly boring for everyone and, more importantly, it is not actually the part that is worth commenting in too much detail, it is better to savour it episode after episode. Suffice to say, we have secret pregnancies (Yes. Plural.), weird old ladies with glass eyes, creepy nuns-kept halfway houses, daddy issues, dramatic slow-mos, thugs fights, inappropriately shirtless teens doing construction works, musical numbers, murder walls complete with red string and pins, weird syrup fetishes, snakes in boxes and dance offs.


Creepy everything, always.

Riverdale actually tells an interestingly-constructed, revelation-by-revelation kind of mystery, that doesn’t really leave me a lot of wiggle room to be mean. 
I have to acknowledge that this Riverdale is nearer to my true 'Guilty pleasure mark' than I’m comfortable to admit. What I mean is that I actually enjoy watching the episodes and I allow myself to be taken by the story, without necessarily turning on the vicious part of my brain that takes notes to demolish and make fun. It is ridiculous in all the right ways, without being all over the places and over the top, like some glorious seasons of Once Upon a Time or Shadowhunters, so I usually find myself nitpicking but with a more benign attitude, rather than being ruthless and cynical like I’m used to. 
That still doesn’t prevent me from noticing the absolutely unjustified lack of shirts of the main protagonist (seriously, you get up in the middle of the night for a run and decide to actively go without shirt? Or they’ve just been all torched by the CW executives to spare you the trouble?), the classic inability to state simply constructed, clear content, non-ambiguous statements to save one’s life (both figuratively and literally speaking), the blatant product placement (in their defense, they don't even try to disguise it) or to enjoy the get-together of all the 80’s icons, like Molly Ringwald and Luke Perry. 


Just having your average middle-of-the-night jog. Nothing to see here.

The comic-established Betty/Veronica dichotomy is, for the first season, substituted by the Veronica/Every-other-female-in-the-school competition, since the good-boy Archie enjoys rendezvous with several ladies before settling (during the last three episodes) with Veronica. One of them, is the music teacher Miss Grundy, with whom he entertains an illicit affair…which opens the always entreating debate: is it appropriate to show these subjects on a teen show? On the one hand, it is obviously not a legal relationship in any way, shape or form and it is clearly not something that should be suggested or positively advertised…. But then again, it is not really shown under a positive light (yes Pretty Little Liars, I’m looking at you. And I’m judging you.) and it is really, really hard to remember that KJ Apa (who, truth to be told, is only 20) is not a teen and that the situation should be cringe-worthy. 
Also, I kinda love how they did go all the way Mrs Robinson on this one. Miss Grundy's behavior -difficult past or not- is portrayed as controversial, with some moments that hint toward a somewhat genuine affection and others that are instead straight up manipulative and interested. Also:

Episode 1x04. Someone has a pattern.... 
Episode 1x01



I mean. C’mon. From the heart-shaped glasses to the obvious milkshake straw fondling, this is picture alone is a whole promotional heaven by itself.
The controversial storyline is partially solved in a pretty linear way, with Miss Grundy that is about to be discovered and leaves town, but only after having decided to part ways with Archie (by his choice)... because, after all, he's the main character and he has to do the right thing at some point. 

And while we're tackling the fake-ages issue, allow me to exhume one of my forgotten gimmicks, aka 


You know, just to obnoxiously put things in prospective. 

And we are now arrived at the characters’ close examination and personal (n.d.b.) judgment, based on what I saw in the first season.
Archie Andrews is the main character and also the most boring. He is a good guy, with big dreams and a bigger heart, who always tries to make the right thing... except when he takes all the worst decisions based on impatience or hormones. There’s not really much to go into, because both his virtues and his defects are actually pretty bland. So, next. 
Veronica Lodge is actually more interesting than I was ready to give her credit for. She’s a reformed mean girl that only occasionally slips into her old habits and usually for good causes, like defending her new friends. Or to snog hard the main character in the Pilot, because: plot-point. She has the good mix of witty quipping and fierce attitude that makes her more than the usual bidimensional love interest or mean girl. She almost reminds me of a Blare Waldorf done well, without the characteristic unbearable attitude, the colossal egoism and the outstanding lack of moral fiber.
Speaking of mean girls, Cheryl Blossom tends instead to follow all the key features of the Mean Girl Cookbook, from the over the top dress code to the speaking mannerism. But she’s so delightfully psychotic that I’m happy to give her a pass. You never know if she’s about to verbally abuse someone for no reason or to desperately cry, and even when she displays vulnerability, you’re never really sure if it is for emotional manipulation or if it is genuine. Which is extremely entertaining, so I’m all for it. 



And now we come to my two favorite characters. And I’m of course talking about Coach Clayton and Moose.
Just kidding. I’m talking about Betty Cooper and Jughead Jones III, both of which I like for very different reasons that, believe it or not, transcend the mere shipping purposes. 
Let’s start with Jughead, boy with an inexplicable name (no, I’m not even going to google it, I feel quite content already) that, somehow, hits me in the perfect outcast-character-sweet-spot. He walks perfectly the line of don’t-give-a-damn attitude, without fully falling into the stereotype of the bad-boy with unnecessary and usually misdirected arrogant attitude. Full disclosure, he gives me great satisfactions: I don’t always see coming the witty retorts or the attitude-fueled reactions that are often skipped for something more crafty (all things considered, of course) but equally satisfactory and character-coherent. Or, again, I’m probably victim of the baleful CW ploy and in love with Cole Sprouse's delivery. So basically I fully realize to be caught by the rebel without a cause/puppy-eyed survivor fever, but I'm A-OK with it.


And then there’s Betty. A part from the fact that her family has a butt-load of weirdness, secrets and issues all by itself, Betty is actually the most interesting character form a “clairvoyant” point of view. She should be the Miss Perfect, clean and tidy, teeth-cavity-inducing-sweet girl, that always does the right thing and says the sensible thing, and she does that…. But she’s also clearly hiding a very dark side (displayed in few subtle and a lot more not-so-subtle ways) and on the brink of going full bananas. In my eyes, Betty’s character has so much potential for future reverting, batshit crazy storylines… And I actually give credit to Lili Reinhart for this one, because she’s able to turn from googly eyes to dead-serious-homicide-eyes in a split second, without being cartoony. But, then again, this is called good acting, and I should probably stop mistaking 'actors doing their job' with 'prodigies', only because I’m used to talking-dogs and abs-healthy-carriers.

Subtle, writers. Real subtle.

Some of my favorite moments in the series are of course the results of some seriously oddly written scenes, like Betty’s song at Jughead’s birthday party (still asking myself: What the actual f***?!), Cheryl's suicide attempt and rescue at the frozen river, the very weird dream sequence of episode 7 (that I know is a reference to the classic comic book aesthetics and it is purposefully made to stick out, but still) or basically every time Cheryl is near a microphone or another human being, for that matter.


In spite of the best traditions, the murder mystery is solved in the second to last episode, which leaves plenty of time to set up new drama for the upcoming season. And I truly can't wait (but I probably will).

So, to summarize the summary: it's a huge, effective Guilty Pleasure. And I mean it in the most positive and sincere way possible. It hits me in the exact right spot to annihilate my critic neurons and to create a moderate addiction, so I can both enjoy the episodes and be clear-headedly delighted by all the weirdness and fan-service moments, without being completely taken out of the flow.
As far as recommendations go, I say: if you thought that Pretty Little Liars or Gossip Girl were too much but you still have 'a thing' for teen dramas, give Riverdale a shot (while the "tameness" lasts... I'm cautiously waiting for it to spiral out of control) and see if it satisfies your sweet tooth, too.

We laugh like tragedy is not about to strike in 3... 2... 1...


See you next time,
Serena