Tag Archives: Part 1

Castle of Crows – Part 1

Every summer for the past three years my sister Macey and I have stayed with our Aunt Penelope in Scotland. It started because Macey was having a princess phase and found out that the reason we never saw Aunt Pen was because she was restoring a castle. I hadn’t really wanted to go back then (Scotland was a long way from Virginia and I was pretty sure castles were for girls anyway), but Dad wasn’t about to send one of us and not the other, so I was overruled on the matter. So when I was ten and Macey was twelve, we flew to Glasgow and saw Aunt Pen for the first time since she’d left the US.

“Macey! Dillon! Oh, look how big you’ve gotten!”

Aunt Pen started fussing over us immediately, ruffling my hair and fawning over Macey’s princess dress. She was an eccentric lady, too. Every move she made was accompanied by the clinking of her bright gold bangles, and her dress was maroon with long dragging sleeves. Her nails were long and painted red, and her hair was pulled back by a flowered headband. Before we got to the castle we stopped in a nearby village, and she bought us each a cinnamon bun before going to the butcher and getting a bag of scraps. It smelled awful, and when Macey asked what they were there for, Aunt Pen just smiled at her, which put us both on edge.

Aunt Pen’s castle was about five miles from the village. The road curved through the woods, and the trees were so tall that we couldn’t see the castle until we were right in front of it. It was a large building made of stone, built at the bottom of a hill and overlooking a big lake. It was old, but it looked well taken care of, and I could feel Macey’s excitement finally rubbing off on me. As soon as the car was parked we jumped out, racing to the doors, Aunt Pen trailing behind.

“Just a moment, kids!” Aunt Pen called after us. “I want to show you something.”

We followed Aunt Pen around the side of the castle, towards the treeline. There was a wooden fence separating the castle grounds from the forest, which was dark and made me uneasy. Aunt Pen whistled. For a moment nothing happened, and then suddenly crows started lining up on the fence, cawing as they landed and eyeing us curiously. Aunt Pen started pulling the scrap meat out of her bag and feeding them one by one.

“This is Macey and Dillon, my niece and nephew. They’ll be spending the summer here.”

“Er, Aunt Pen? Are you talking to the crows?” Macey looked mildly terrified, and I couldn’t help but feel the same. One of the larger crows cawed at us, and Macey took a step back.

“Yes dear, crows are very clever and very loyal. One never needs to fear if they’ve befriended the crows. Would you like to feed them?”

Macey was horrified, but I was curious. The crows were a little bit creepy, but Aunt Pen seemed so at ease with them that I couldn’t help but feel more at ease too. So I nodded, and I reached into her bag of scraps.

“Hold it by the very edge, and reach out carefully,” Aunt Pen instructed,  guiding me towards the large crow. “This is Baron; he’s the largest crow in the murder.”

“Murder?” Macey asked.

“Yes, that’s what a flock of crows is called, dear,” Aunt Pen said. “Now say hello and introduce yourself. Then give him the meat.”

“Hi Baron,” I said, only feeling a little bit silly talking to a crow. “I’m Dillon. It’s nice to meet you.”

Baron cawed at me, then snatched the meat out of my hand and scarfed it down in seconds. Baron cawed some more, and I smiled at him in return.

“Well done, Dillon! I think he likes you. Would you like to try, Macey?”

“She’s too scared to try,” I said, grinning smugly. Macey glared back at me.

“I’m not scared! If you can do it, I can too!” Then Macey marched forward and grabbed a piece of meat, only looking slightly disgusted by the feeling of it.

Aunt Pen led her to a smaller crow and had her hold her hand out. “This is Nixie. Go ahead and say hello, dear.”

“Hi Nixie, I’m Macey! Your name is really pretty,” Macey said, holding out the scrap meat. Nixie cawed softly, then grabbed the meat. Macey jumped a bit when she did, and Nixie cawed at her again.

“Well done, Macey! You two are going to be very popular; I can already tell,” Aunt Pen said, turning to look at the sunset and frowning. “It’s getting a bit late, so we’ll have to head inside now. While we’re out here though, I need to tell you the most important rule of staying here with me.

“See this fence? It goes all the way around the castle grounds. It is very important that you don’t cross it without me. The woods are tricky to navigate, and as you might have noticed during the drive up, the castle isn’t visible if you get too far away. So stay out of the trees, alright?”

“Sure thing Aunt Pen!” Macey said, smiling.

“Good,” Aunt Pen said, returning her smile. “Now let’s head inside and get washed up for dinner.”

We followed after her, and I quickly forgot about crows and forests and rules. For that night, all that mattered was me and my sister and our joint effort to keep Aunt Pen from making haggis for dinner. It was the first simple night we had at the castle, and, though we didn’t know it then, the last simple night.

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 shows all sides of a revolution

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1 came out to the box office swinging, using a holistic approach to the beating heart of a revolution smashing its way to a $123 million opening weekend.

The third installment of the four part series (the books were a trilogy) opened with its heroine, Katniss, struggling to cope with her Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Though Katniss’ psychological issues are never tackled head-on by the characters, actress Jennifer Lawrence and director Francis Lawrence are sure to pay close attention to her worsening condition.

Mockingjay Part 1 addresses many sides of a revolution. Graphic from IMDb
Mockingjay Part 1 addresses many sides of a revolution. Graphic from IMDb

Francis drops the audience straight into the heart of District 13, the once mythical district/state that dared to rebel against the Capitol. Following along the narrative written by Suzanne Collins, District 13 is portrayed as a beehive constantly humming to the tune of revolution.

Instead of following the path of other sci-fi films Mockingjay, Part 1 doesn’t portray either side as an absolute. While the Capitol is viewed as the bad guy, some characters defect from its tyranny to help film rebel propaganda. On the contrary, District 13 is so focused on bringing down the Capitol that it often forgets to look at its own ethics and morals.

During speeches by the district’s president, Coin, the audience often has prolonged applause. This is a similar social construct seen in countries with fascist or totalitarian governments. Look up uncut footage of speeches from North Korea, Soviet Russia, or Nazi Germany and you’ll see exact examples of this.

Another issue with District 13 is its depth. If this setting were a character, it would have been deemed a flat one. Other than a handful of elite members, no one seems to do anything in the district. You might begin to think these soldiers only eat and cheer for speeches.

The third instalments in the Hunger Games series breaks from the earlier movies in a way that is somewhat difficult to explain. Comparatively it feels uncanny. Our heroine, Katniss Everdeen, seems to be going up along with the plot. Sure this movie is still about her, but Katniss begins to realize this revolution isn’t just about her. She isn’t the only one being affected by the Capitol.

At various points during the film the audience is taken to far away districts where the rebellion is turning into a full fletched revolution. By taking a holistic approach, the film begins to take on a more mature tone. Instead of forced combat between minors, we now see scores of men being shot down by the capitol. Some scenes can be compared to the Russian revolution.

Hopefully the tweens are realizing this series isn’t just an awkward love triangle.

There is one main issue that holds this movie back, the music. I’m not talking about the part where Katniss sings, that’s fine. What I’m talking about is the background music that tries to make every other scene into a spectacle.

Early on Katniss receives the well known three finger salute from a large crowd of at a hospital. This is a scene that would have been great had they kept it quiet. Sadly, the scene feels forced when a giant crescendo  of music comes blaring over the speakers. It is a silent protest and a silent salute, and I was they had kept it that way.

Yes, Mockingjay, Part 1 has a few issues, but so did the first two movies. It accomplished what it needed to do and has set the stage for an epic conclusion.

Part one was the cold war, part two will be an all out revolution.