Finally watched Stardust (in German, reluctantly). The book is based on, by Neil Gaiman, is one of my favourites - it's a beautiful fairytale that you wish would never end. So my expectations for the film were quite high, although I lowered them, partly because it has been ages since I read the book and also because I realize that, yes, a film is different to a book.
All in all I liked the film. It's not perfect. It has weaknesses (as do most films). There's a bit too much Hollywood kitsch and melodrama in it. The first part is a bit tedious, but the nice bits increase in quantity after some time and by the middle the film is quite enjoyable. I even like some of the changes that were made when translating the book to the screen. Captain Shakespeare is a very nice character and the dancing scene on his ship emphasized the glow of the star/Yvaine in a really nice way.
I also liked the camerawork and the effects. The aforementioned glow was fabulous and the green fire effects impressed me, too (and made me wonder when green fire effects in films became a fashion). They seemed appropriate for the kind of film it is and not over the top.
Also, Claire Danes surprised me with her performance. I was not sure she would fit the role of Yvaine, because I always imagined the star as a quite young girl in the book (appearance of a 13-year-old, but wisdom of the ages, that kind of thing). For the film-Yvaine, though, Claire Danes was very fitting and convincing. I also loved her monologue when Tristan's a mouse.
So Stardust turned out to be a nice and very sweet film; special in its own way, as it does not try to copy a film that has been here before and instead sets its own atmosphere.
I also finished reading Dan Simmon's Hyperion. It's a nicely different Science Fiction; almost completely character-driven, and very little actually happens in the book. You basically just get to know the characters' background stories (what a clever way to make the reader buy the sequel) as a set-up for the plot development that is to come. I like that. The little emphasis on character is what usually puts me off SciFi. You even have some of the social criticism that's typical for SciFi. I really enjoyed the religious discourse that worked its way through the book - the novel presents a wealth of world religions (in their futuristic variety) like Judaism, Zen Buddhism and Christianity, competing with each other through the characters (most characters have an emphasis on one religion).
It seems to me that Science Fiction that uses religion as a driving force for the plot or the characters is rare. If religion is present in SciFi, it's only visible as fanaticism (and even then mostly just in end-of-world-scenarios). I guess that's because a futuristic, science- and technology-based world is bound to lose its faith and searches for new gods (e.g. computers, or - as it is probably at least partly the case in the present - Fantasy literature as replacement for the loss of past mysticism, which was greatly based in religious texts).
True enough, Hyperion has an Armageddon-scenario. But it seems to me the religious discourse is still more focused compared to other novels. Moreover, Simmons seems to have researched the religions very thoroughly and developed quite a detailed futuristic version of each, making them more believable. Now I'm very curious how this discourse will resolve itself in The Fall of Hyperion and whether Simmons will actually give one religion a preference (which, I imagine, could be quite tricky).
More experimenting with techniques. I used the same technique as in the last painting, but somehow it didn't work so well this time. Apparently some techniques are better for certain subject matters than others (doh). I'm just surprised because I'd have thought this technique would be better for the pretty-girl-paintings than my normal working habit. Gotta experiment a bit more with it.
(Or maybe it's the colour ... it seems I can get the values alright with this technique, but it messes up the colours so much that I have to do a lot of post-painting editing.)
(And the composition is by far less than perfect...)