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McCottoney Lives!

mountain-man-mccottoneySo my boyfriend has invented a nickname for Matthew McConaughey because he couldn’t remember his name, (or maybe because he’s jealous of my celebrity crush). He calls him McCottoney (I think that’s the right spelling).

McCottoney has taken on a life of his own as a ragged old gold prospector or mountain man, a sort of character whose hobbies include chewing tobacco and hollering incomprehensible curses like “doggonit.” Apparently his first name has been replaced by the nickname Scraps.

When I saw the trailer for Free State of Jones, it seemed McCottoney had truly sprung to life in all his ragged glory. Talk about self-actualization. Of course, I had to go see that movie. I was there with McConaughey from the beginning with obscure films like Reign of Fire, unlike some people who only like him now that he’s won an Oscar.

free-state-of-jones

I always watched his movies because he has always been ridiculously good looking. I didn’t really care that much about his acting ability, but now seeing him in Free State of Jones, I thought his acting was amazing. McCottoney–I mean McConaughey portrays an unwilling soldier in the US Civil War, Newton Knight. He’s actually “just a nurse” as one guy refers to him because it’s his job to transport the wounded from the battle field.

free_state_of_jones_From the opening of the film, we see Newton as the kind of person who cares about others’ wellbeing and isn’t swept away in dreams of honour and glory. When his nephew is killed, he quits the army and makes a run for it. But even in his home town, the war effort means that his neighbours are robbed of their livelihood to support the troops, so McConaughey’s character stands up against that injustice.

He falls in with a band of runaway slaves, and this leads him to form his own little group of both white and black outlaws who champion freedom from slavery and oppression, fighting against the Confederacy.

The film portrays all the grim realities of the civil war and its aftermath, even though McConaughey’s good looks make it seem like being a hardscrabble farmer in Middle of Nowhere, Mississippi is quite glamorous. It shows through an interesting flash-forward how little had changed in terms of race relations in Mississippi.

As Richard Grant writes when investigating the real history of Jones County,

On the county line, I was half-expecting a sign reading “Welcome to the Free State of Jones” or “Home of Newton Knight,” but the Confederacy is now revered by some whites in the area, and the chamber of commerce had opted for a less controversial slogan: “Now This Is Living!”

McConaughey embodies his character in a way that is historically accurate and not too showy. He excels at showing Knight’s ability to behave like a true leader, never exploding in righteous indignation but making extraordinary efforts to suppress his burning outrage and anger (either that, or constipation). Seriously though, I think this is one of McConaughey’s best acting moments.

Also, he bears an almost uncanny resemblance to the real Knight:

the-real-newton-knight

In the film, Knight often reminded me of some Old Testament prophet with his long beard and his religious fervour. He proudly declares that “a man’s a man,” meaning that all men are equal, whether black or white. He later married a former slave, Rachel, who had been instrumental in helping the outlaw band. However, he doesn’t seem to do much to recognize women’s achievements.

There’s something patriarchal about him, which is not surprising considering the time and place he lived in. But, despite all that, as Matthew McConaughey says of his character, “He was a beacon of a man, ahead of his time.”

It’s definitely a story that needed to be told. The film has been criticized unfairly in my opinion for being a “white savior” myth, but it is after all, a true story. I think better to make movies about a white savior who was fighting for a good cause than, say, The Wolf of Wall Street, glorifying a “white scammer” who was just trying to make himself rich and acting like a jerk.

outrageous

Of course, there are not enough movie being made featuring non-white main characters, or female ones. I think the story of Harriet Tubman definitely deserves its own movie with a female lead. However, Newton Knight was a really amazing character who also deserves a film of his own.

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Top Dystopian YA Series

It seems I’ve been swept away by that YA book craze. I really enjoy the sci-fi series called “The 100” which is all about teenagers in space and on a post-apocalyptic Earth. So, I read the books that the series was based on, and then I got sucked into more and more teenage books. This is a list of my favorite dystopian YA series.

And as a special bonus, maybe because I’m an adult reading books meant for teenagers, or maybe because I just tend to be annoyed by certain characters, I’ve also made a section for characters who annoyed me.

The 100 by Kass Morgan

Everyone's faces are always covered in paint or dirt. That's a rule on the 100.

Everyone’s faces are always covered in paint, blood and/or dirt. That’s an unbreakable rule on The 100.

The main character is a girl called Clarke, a medical student who lives on a space station along with the rest of the survivors from a post-nuclear holocaust Earth. Clarke becomes privy to some unsavory human experiments, and as a result she is thrown in space jail. However, she and the other juvenile delinquents are let loose on Earth as a kind of test to see whether it’s safe for people to go back to the planet.

Yes, it’s quite a caring and humane society, and it just gets better. The teens actually do a descent job of surviving, until the grownups come along and try to ruin everything.

The books are not as violent and extreme as the TV series that was based on them, so if you’ve seen the series, you might find the books somewhat more boring, but they’re still enjoyable.

Characters who annoyed me: Glass. She has a stupid name, and she is stupid. In the TV show, the writers made a good move by not having her in it at all. Instead, there is a character with a slightly less stupid name, Raven. But Raven is actually kind of cool.

Matched by Ally Condie

In the actual book, the girl is not literally trapped in a crystal ball.

In the actual book, the girl is not literally trapped in a crystal ball.

This is the scariest of all the dystopian books I’ve read because the dystopian world seems like it would be extremely boring to live in, and the way its boredom is described in every detail is… strangely fascinating. Drawing its inspiration from Ray Bradbury’s Farenheit 451, Matched takes place in a society called Society (you can see how fun and creative they are already), where all daily activities are regulated by the government. Its rules are enforced by a combination of science and extreme anal retentiveness. Even in the marriage ceremonies, the candidates are genetically Matched for an optimal outcome. It’s also the only time people are allowed to eat cake. That, and their final banquet on the day they die.

Oh, and there are only 100 official films that people are allowed to watch as well at 100 official poems, paintings, etc. Well, I won’t spoil it by describing how the entire society works, but it is quite amazing.

Cassia is a teenager who is about to find out who she’s Matched with. It turns out, it’s her best friend, who is an all-round great guy! But then for a moment she sees another image pop up on her screen, of Ky, the mysterious “aberration”, who is basically like a second-class citizen. Of course, trying to figure out what Ky was doing in her matching device drives her crazy with the whole mystery of it, so she starts to fall for him instead of Mr. Perfect. Actually, I’m not sure it was a good choice, as Ky doesn’t seem to have much of a personality other than being mysterious and having suffered a lot at the hands of Society. But it is a really interesting series in terms of the political world it portrays and how Cassia and her friends try to rebel against it.

Characters who annoyed me: Indie, a girl Cassia meets while in exile. It seemed like the author worked really hard to make Indie look suspicious. Even though it turned out later that she was one of the good guys, I still didn’t trust her!

Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

under-the-never-sky-veronica-rossi

Alternative title: Spending too Much Time on the Internet Makes You Smell Bad.

This is a lesser-known series, but it’s got a unique world that provides a fun escape. The so-called “civilized” factions live in pods and spend most of their time in virtual reality, but they are slowly going insane. The people who live in the real world are more like medieval hunters. So when Aria, a teenage girl from the pod is exiled into the wild, she is unlikely to survive unless she get she help of Perry, a savage prince who hates the way she smells.

The people in the outside world have mutations that allow them to have extra keen senses, usually sight and hearing and smell. Unfortunately, there were no great touchers, which was odd. Touch is a sense too! Seriously, it could have been interesting to have someone who could know the molecular structure of an object simply by touching it.

Characters who annoyed me: Brooke. She gets the short end of the stick because Perry breaks up with her for no reason. I would feel sorry for her, but she has no personality aside from knowing how to use a bow and being a b*&@%.

Did you read/like some of these books? Have you ever been annoyed by characters in YA books or otherwise? If so, please comment!