Food for Thought

My 2014 must have fireside entertainment choices

It’s that time of year again: the temperature drops, snow falls, roads turn icy and the fireplaces (wood or electric) come alive with dancing flames of orange and yellow. Families and friends gather together around the fire to share stories, gifts, drinks and laughter. It’s also the time to share in quiet moments and watching films or TV shows together.

Christmas is upon us in a matter of days (10 to be exact!) and I know we’ll be sitting in front of the TV watching what Christmas films catch our eye. We’ll have the kitties dressed up in their Christmas outfits and we’ll spend a few days with the OH’s parents.

Source: Fireplace Consulting

As fun as it is to watch festive Christmas films and shows, I’ve been catching up with some great films, TV shows and books that I think you’ll also enjoy.

My favourite read: Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

The book is by no means new to the literary world (it was first published in 1997), but it’s modern fiction that is as timeless as any classic novel. Arthur Golden spent ten years researching and training in the world of geisha, translated as ‘artisan’ or ‘artist’. The story is a culmination of Golden’s research and follows a young girl, Chiyo, in 1929 Japan who was sold with her sister, Satsu, as a young servant girls and becomes an apprentice to a geisha house. Chiyo is separated from her sister who was later forced into prostitution for her ‘undesirable looks’. After her failed attempt to escape, she is given a cup of shaved ice and some money from a kind man known only as the Chairman. It is at this point Chiyo prays at the temple in Gion, the prominent geisha district in Kyoto, to become a successful geisha so that she may be able to see the Chairman again. The story is told from the future, a reflection on the past which lets readers follows Chiyo’s journey to becoming Sayuri, her given geisha name.

The world of the geisha is now an art that is slowly lost over time. What fascinates me the most are the minority cultures that are slowly being lost as new generations lose interest in keeping the traditions and art of their culture. In the 1920s, geisha were plentiful and there were estimated to be over 80 000; today, the exact number is unknown. It’s a rare sight into a world that can no longer be seen prominently and through Golden’s words and visual imagery, we can imagine what it was like to be amongst the company of geishas, in particular, Sayuri’s, when they were still around.

My favourite film: Dracula Untold

The world of the supernatural has always held fascination for me, to know how those with super powers can walk amongst us and blend in seamlessly without attracting any attention. The story of Dracula is told in a similar vein to Sayuri’s in Memoirs of a Geisha, except in this instance the narrator is Vlad III (aka Dracula’s) son. The story is set in 15th-century Transylvania where Vlad III, prince of Wallachia, played by Welsh actor Luke Evans has managed to secure a period of peace and security for his people. This is disturbed by the arrival of Sultan Mehmed II (played by Dominic Cooper) who demands a number of Transylvanian boys, including Vlad’s son, to be given to him for training as part of his personal army. During one of Vlad’s journeys to investigate suspicious activity, he meets a vampire hidden in a cave on a hillside whom he later makes a deal with to protect his people.

Over time, different films have portrayed their own perceptions of Dracula as a bloodthirsty, violent and aggressive vampire who sought to kill for food. The only endearing characteristic was his love for Mirena or reincarnates of his beloved. What attracted me most about director Gary Shore’s version, is that we can see the motivations behind why Vlad the Impaler is so enamoured with Mirena and how he came to be a vampire in the first place. Although there have been discussions about the inaccuracies of the history portrayed in the film, I liked the idea that Vlad was as fallible as any other person and made decisions he thought was best to save his loved ones and those that depended on and looked to him for guidance and leadership.

My favourite TV Show: Hannibal

Based on the second novel about Dr Hannibal Lecter Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, the NBC adaptation follows criminal profiler, Will Graham (played by Hugh Dancy), who is enlisted by Head of Behavioural Services at the FBI, Jack Crawford, to initially look into the disappearance of 8 young girls. Will’s abilities to empathise with the killers makes him good at his job, but at the warning of friend and psychiatrist, Dr Alana Bloom, Jack asks Dr Hannibal Lecter (played by Mads Mikkelsen) to supervise Will and becomes a friend, partner and mentor to Will through the series.

We were left with a cliffhanger episode for the end of season 2 and we’ve still not got word yet on whether there will be a season 3. I really hope there is! I’m one that’s easily affected by supernatural horror films but not so much by violence and gore. Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of Hannibal Lecter in the Hannibal series of films left a disturbing image in my head; his cold, piercing blue eyes is a window to his intelligent and devious mind, yet he also shows cunning and calculating thoughts. Hopkins plays a a disturbing character that leaves the hair on the back of your neck raised. In the TV series though, Mikkelsen as Dr Lecter is the complete opposite.

I’ve written about my fascination with Mads Mikkelsen’s portrayal of Hannibal before and I’d reiterate it here again. Everyone who’s seen or heard of Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter can attest to the disturbing nature of the character he plays. The TV series focuses on that detail and the image people have of Dr Lecter and shows the audience a different side to the good doctor. The affable side, the person that draws men and women to him because of his eloquent speech, tailored clothing and strong, tall stature. What’s disturbing for us is the imagery we build in our minds, based on suggestions presented in the film. We know that Hannibal Lecter was a cannibal, so when he says he’s serving rabbit and an image of a girl running across a field is shown, the next time he says he’s serving pork, do you believe him? You want to like Mikkelsen’s Dr Lecter, but knowing he’s a serial killer who also eats his victims, your mind is at war with itself: you know you shouldn’t trust him, he’s a cannibal after all! But the Dr Lecter on screen doesn’t give you a reason to distrust him.

What are your favourite films/books/TV series of the year that you would quite happily snuggle under a blanket and sit in front of the fire enjoying? I would love to hear your suggestions!

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