Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Book Review: "The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter" (Doyle, 1904)

“You live in a different world to me, Mr. Overton—a sweeter and healthier one. My ramifications stretch out into many sections of society, but never, I am happy to say, into amateur sport, which is the best and soundest thing in England.” 
— Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarter"

Leigh: Yet again, our story matches up with our recent viewings without any sort of planning. We actually changed what movie we were going to watch to something easier to discuss to get back into the swing of things. We're getting good at this. On the first page, Watson discusses that he's worried about Holmes going back on drugs in a paragraph that might be one of Doyle's best written paragraphs. We have a bored Sherlock Holmes who is is teetering on falling back into drug use and a very concerned Watson who doesn't want that to happen to his friend. 

AND LO AND BEHOLD, in walks a mystery! Not an incredibly serious mystery, but the mystery of a missing rugby player. The best in the world or county or something. I don't know. I didn't really pay attention to the rugby bits. In fact, the rugby bits actually confused me. I found myself drifting off and not paying attention when anything about a three quarter or goals or tries or quaffles were mentioned. If anything, it made me not interested. I'm sure that for those who know anything about rugby at all besides that the New Zealand All Blacks are the scariest/sexiest men in the world, it at least made sense. It makes complete sense that Doyle wrote a story that had a sports theme since he founded a football team (since disbanded) and played cricket (which I think is impossible to learn how to play and people just pretend that they know what's going on). In fact, I'm a little surprised that it we haven't encountered another story like this before. Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Cricket Bat or something. 

This is all that Leigh understands about rugby, but really, who needs to know more?

What we do have though, once we wade through all of the rugby talk, is a man who is missing. A man who, while relatively scant of money now, is set to inherit a lot of money from his uncle, Scrooge McDuck. The missing man sent a very intriguing telegram before he up and disappeared which leads Holmes and Watson to a doctor who IS NOT HAVING IT. He actually challenged Holmes, not so much so Holmes couldn't figure it out, but enough to put a bit of padding into the middle of the story. 

What did you think? Did you enjoy the rugby ties? Or did it just muddle the relatively straightforward mystery?

Austin: The rugby bits were confusing because they ultimately weren’t a major part of the story. The European sport was a bit of misdirection, which was disappointing since while we’re writing this we’re in the middle of an exciting World Cup. I’ve had only a limited experience with rugby. I saw the movie Invictus and my brother played rugby for a year—but I only attended one game. I mostly understood it. It’s like American Football except they hug more and play faster.

You mentioned the parts of this story I really liked which was examining Sherlock out of his element. His boredom is causing a major toll on him and then the case that is supposed to get him out of his rut begins with a name he is expected to know but doesn’t. I think it’s rather fitting that by the end, Sherlock isn’t even the one to find the exact location of Geoffrey; he has to have the help of a scent hound. 

Not just used for the "DAWWW"s any more! 

Yet throughout all of this, Sherlock keeps his cool. He never panics or even feels that embarrassed that he doesn’t know about rugby. (AND NOBODY SHOULD) It fits true to his MO of going forth into the strange and unknown even if that means amateur rugby. It ends up having the same sort of elements that we see in his crimes like mysterious notes and money grabbing plans. However, it still feels like an underdog story for our brilliant hero. 

This isn’t one of the great stories and I’m not sure I’m entirely happy with the conclusion, but I enjoyed the point of view of it all. Am I crazy or did you see some of that too?

Leigh: I thought the conclusion was...lackluster? Inappropriate? I don't know. It was a let down though to have Holmes run all around the countryside and then it ends with a man crying over his dead wife and the doctor saying, "GUESS WHAT?! YOU WON. YA HAPPY NOW? JERK!" I don't know. I just wanted something a bit more fantastic to go with the rest of the story. Holmes was facing a great opponent and yet the story ended with the missing Three Quarter (do I capitalize this? I don't know.) mourning over his recently dead wife. It just felt like a bummer after what was a really fun adventure. Almost like we were having all of this fun and Holmes was doing his best and then when we find out what happened, I almost feel guilty for having so much fun. 

I know that some Sherlock Holmes stories are going to be a bit more relaxed and not as crazy as some of them but I was hoping for a conclusion to at least match the rest of the story in intensity and intrigue and instead we are left with a melancholy ending. 

But it felt to me like Watson should've stepped in at the end and had a discussion with Holmes about how they went about things and maybe if they should've stopped searching for the missing rugby man. It feels like a moral story, like we the audience should learn something from it like that some people's business is private for a reason or that sometimes people go missing who don't want to be found. 
What do you think? Should we, the audience, take something away from this story or is it just an odd ending?

Austin: I thought it was a fine ending. Not one of the best but the dead wife element threw me off a bit. I thought it would have a more emotional appeal, but since it was so much looking at different directions it didn’t work for me on that level. Plot wise, I thought it was fine. I guess I didn’t think this was a super happy fun adventure! Not that I thought it was a darker tone throughout but the rugby element felt more like a new setting than a wacky setting—like a gaggle of gingers. 

Watson felt like an observer this entire tale. It was almost like Sherlock told him this story once and now Watson is telling it second hand. I’m happy when Watson isn’t involved heavily in the plot when he can add an interesting observation like he did at the beginning of the story. After that he seemed to fade away rather heavily. 

I think the world of Sherlock Holmes always feels a bit bleak at times. Not just because there are always crimes happening but it’s because they’re happening without much eye-raising. It’s never a shocking act that’s happening, it just feels so much like normal society. Sherlock is trying to maintain order but it will never stick. This isn’t like a comic book world where goons are going to do bad things but they know Batman could be right around the corner. Sherlock’s presence isn’t making an impact on crime; they’re just carrying on often in very selfish ways. Sometimes they’re goofy and sometimes this town is rather cruel. That’s why we need heroes.

Silly Sherlock! You can't fly!

And here is Leigh Montano with the final word!

Leigh: HAKA!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

In-Class Movie: "The Great Game" (Sherlock, 2010)

“A simple case, and yet, in some ways, an instructive one,” Holmes remarked, as we travelled back to town.”

--Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”

Austin: We’re back! Again! We keep having these random little hiatuses but we never really leave. We just keep climbing up the Reichenbach Falls, jumping off, messing around for a bit and then come back to the world we know so well. Apologies are on my end this time but now we’re back. Instead of reviewing a Jeremy Brett movie, I thought it’ll be best to change up our plans to review our next episode of Sherlock since that might be of more interest to our readers.

We’re now up to the Season One finale where from the first scene we return to the edge that Sherlock seemed to be missing in "The Blind Banker". He’s mocking someone who is about to die, he’s shooting his own apartment, he’ll probably get around to taking care of that head in his fridge. This is all because he’s bored and the show’s response is to get him a wheelbarrow’s full of plots all with different degrees of danger.

Honestly, this is better than abandoned smelly leftovers. Watson shouldn't complain so much.

In the first two episodes, we had one plot and barely and subplots to deal with for 80 minutes. This is dramatically different where it feels like they’re adapting an entire anthology. Mycroft wants stolen missile plans back, a bomber is setting up a series of mysteries to solve and this is all happening while Sherlock is desperate to use any free minute he has to figure out who is Morarity.

I found this to be very successful because of the time limits with the bombers. They made the possible bomber victims very sympathetic because of how scary their situation is. I found the subplot with Watson earning his stripes to be a bit lacking because government secrets is just gibberish at this point because we know it won’t have any actual impact on our characters and their world. So that is lesser priority even though Martin Freeman is fantastic in those scenes.

What did you think of the format of this show? Was it too messy for you or did it all fit like a crazy explosive puzzle?