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Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

I’ll be honest – I started this post on June 3, shortly after  I had seen the movie The Bridges of Madison County and compared it to the book. There’s no time like the present, someone once said, so I’m finally the getting this up as a post. As I look at the novels I currently have waiting to be read, I must admit I am often drawn to those where I could watch the movie version as well.

However, when I think about other books that I’ve read and their movie counterparts, the results are mixed. I’ve listed a bunch, and again, these are very personal preferences reflecting what I like to read and which movies I’d go see.

The Shipping News – Annie Proulx – both movie and book excellent!

Shawshank Redemption – Stephen King – really liked both

Silence of the Lambs – Thomas Harris – book so gripping I couldn’t put it down, movie was also gripping, but not quite as good, though truly terrifying

Red Dragon – Thomas Harris – Book was excellent – the prequel to Silence of the Lambs; movie a huge disappointment, and almost nothing like the book

Because of Winn Dixie – Kate DiCamillo – both excellent, book still a bit better

The Secret Life of Bees – Sue Monk Kidd – book excellent, movie really quite good

Lord of the Rings – R.R.Tolkien, Harry Potter Series – J.K. Rowling,  Narnia Series – C.S. Lewis – I lump these together – perhaps unfairly – because they are all series, fantasy and of epic proportions in film. I loved the books that I read from these series, and that was not always all of them, but I really loved the movies, too. Either way, you can’t lose.

White Oleander – Janet Fitch – Outstanding book, couldn’t put it down; the movie not really even worth seeing

The Invention of Hugo Cabret – Brian Selznick – I like the storyline, but it wasn’t a favorite book of mine; Martin Scorsese really brought the story to life. Preferred the movie.

2001: A Space Odyssey – Arthue C. Clarke –  Movie by Stanley Kubrick – One of my favorite movies, and I feel it far outshined the book, but I’m real biased on this one.

The Joy Luck Club – Amy Tan – an amazingly complex and engrossing book; the movie couldn’t possibly carry the book’s  richness. Book better by far.

The Devil Wears Prada – Lauren Weisberger – Here’s a case where the movie was just fabulous and fabulously funny. I got the book after seeing the movie and was disappointed.

The Horse Whisperer – Nicholas Evans – I saw the movie first on this one and it was excellent, so I read the book. Also excellent and I’d recommend both.

 

Well, that’s my two cents. Do you have a loved book that was made into a movie and a thought or two about it? Or a great movie and the book you read later? Let us know!

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There’s something exciting about reading a terrific book and then going to the movies to watch the film created from it.  However, I, and most folks I know, are of the opinion that the book generally outshines the movie, if for no other reason that so much of a book’s depth and detail cannot possibly be portrayed in the short time allowed for a film. This is not always the case, but I get ahead of myself.

Having recently read The Bridges of Madison County, I rented the movie. I must say I was really disappointed. First, the book is a very short novel; the movie ran 2-1/4 hours long. As mentioned in an earlier post where I wrote about the book, I had my doubts about Meryl Streep and Clint Eastwood cast as the main characters — both outstanding actors, but I didn’t imagine them in these roles. Again, my personal opinion. I would have much preferred Sam Elliot, or even Kevin Costner, (as he is now), as Robert Kincaid; maybe I’ve just seen Clint Eastwood in too many hard and/or violent roles. Meryl Streep, so brilliant, just couldn’t cut it for me as an Italian woman, now Iowa farm wife. It really took away from the story, and that seemed so drawn out over the course of the 2+ hour movie. I’d stick with the book.

So I’m wondering … did you read the book and/or see the movie? Who might you picture in the roles of Francesca and Robert? Or did Eastwood and Streep fill the bill for you?

p.s. This is just Part 1. Down the road, we’re going to have some fun with Part 2 and onward … it’s all about reading and imagination and what we see.

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I know I am not alone in having dreams and goals. And just like you, I experience periods of seemingly endless challenges and/or loss in which those dreams are so far on the back burner, the stove isn’t even in the room.

There are numerous ways to find our way back, and one of them that I resurrected this morning is the book The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Greater Creativity by Julia Cameron. I read the book awhile ago and did a number of the exercises, but I think, right now, checking in with artist/writer/teacher Julia will help me get back on the path to my dream. While I have never stopped being creative, I’ve not had the energy, focus or desire to pursue what I most want to do with it. I’m seeing a spark again, and I want to grow that glimmer.

Feeling stuck artistically? I recommend The Artist’s Way for any creative person who is struggling with getting their show on the road.

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That’s a pretty big promise, I know. But don’t take my word for it. Take a mere 10 minutes from your life and be moved by this amazing film, “Change for A Dollar,” by Sharon Wright. Don’t miss this. Watch here, or for a bigger view, just click the link above.

 

 

 

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I find there are periods of time in which I am all over the place. I’m working on several graphics jobs that call upon very different mindsets, am fielding a proposal to do a new job, wondering when I should follow up on something I am waiting to hear back on, when I’ll get the time, (or desire), to simply pull the remaining paperwork from my files so I can put away all my 2010 tax stuff, and it goes on and on.

I finally used my Barnes & Noble’s gift card from Christmas – bought the reference book I’ll need for some of my characters in the picture book I’ll be bringing with me to the upcoming NJ SCBWI June Conference, and surprise! David Cook’s CD, (yup, from American Idol.) Usually, when I work at my desk, I listen to new age, light classical piano or guitar, or Indian (American) music because I can’t do creative writing when someone is singing lyrics, but lately, when on other types of work, I find myself listening to the radioio IDOLS station in iTunes. Sometimes I watch the show, sometimes not – this year I seem to be interested. I do know, however, when I hear David Cook’s voice, I hear something I like, so he’ll be arriving in a few days. And then I went to read a bit about Patricia Briggs’ latest in the Mercy Thompson series, River Marked, but let’s not go there just yet.

Forrest Gump arrived today. I must be the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen Forrest Gump, but so be it. I, unlike a friend of mine, am a constant juggler of movies in my queue. He just adds something, and when it comes up, it comes up. Not me. I seem to ponder how it will fit in with the current tenor of my life, my feelings, etc. Do I want to laugh? (or need to?) Am in the frame of mind to deal with something powerful and disturbing? I can’t say how many times I have pushed Hotel Rwanda down as it begins to surface in my queue. And I just watched Alice in Wonderland, which I really enjoyed a lot. Makes me think that maybe when I’m done my current book, that I’ll read Alice – she’s a fixture on my bookshelf.

Now watching Alice in Wonderland and Forrest Gump may be an offset to that current book – The Kite Runner. I was told it was a very sad book. I didn’t ask why my friend found it so, so am discovering the many levels of sadness for myself. Certainly, reading a book like this makes it that much more obvious what fabulous, often spoiled, lives we are living here in the land of the free and home of the brave. Visualizing the bombed ruins of Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan and the cruelty of the Taliban as described by the author is sobering to say the least. And it made me think of how that happened here in its own way, except that the victims weren’t Afghani people, they were native Americans.

Imagining the abject poverty the Afghan people were subjected to is heartbreaking, but that same poverty is also right here in America. Many of those living on reservations are living in conditions that are below those of third world countries, yet no one ever talks about it. Or even seems to know. Indians have the highest rate of poverty of any group in the United States.

Years ago at a pow-wow, I saw this great tee shirt. It was funny, well, no – not funny – more ironic. Clever. Ultimately, more sad than anything else. It features Geronimo and several other Indians, the tee shirt saying – Homeland Security – Fighting Terrorism since 1492. Here it is – you can order it at Northern Sun along with many items which have something to say. Was their experience so different than what happened in Afghanistan? Their world destroyed, families killed, homes taken away, forced to live where their terrorists demanded. It was a very dark chapter in American history. I wonder if that history is being taught. Or that this impoverished way of life, so unlike our own, continues on in many parts of this country. Or are we all just too busy?

Well, rambling I am. I also wonder when one of my cats will get past the hairball she seems to be harboring somewhere in her digestive tract, and which she feels compelled to try and push up in the vicinity of 2 – 4 a.m.

And I can’t wait to start photographing my friend’s little boy, my model for the MC in aforementioned picture book. Yeah, just all over.

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Are you a voracious reader? Love to read? I consider myself blessed in that I really do love to read. As a small child, I read anything I could get my hands on, and today is no different. Books, magazines, blogs, newspapers, cereal boxes … it’s all good.

However, I would say my strongest leaning is towards good fiction … who doesn’t love a really good story? And if that’s adult fiction, YA or a picture book with fabulous illustrations, I’m in. Recent reads, which I’m hoping to post about, include Leaving the Bellweathers by Kristen Clark Venuti, White Oleander by Janet Fitch and Eggs by Jerry Spinelli … all great. But what about non-fiction? Although I am generally reading a book of a metaphysical nature at whatever leisurely pace that goes, (which is always non-fiction), every now and then I feel a call to read non-fiction of some other sort.

Does non-fiction cleanse the “fiction palate” for you? Does it bring you back to earth and/or provide grist for the mill? Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser is one of the many books I’ve picked up along the way at library sales, yard sales, etc. and has been sitting on my shelf, waiting. What inspired this read is twofold – my interest in the general subject of the status of our food supply and also, that I saw the movie. I read in advance of seeing it that the movie was nothing like the book,  and so far, this certainly is true.

It was a great movie for what it showed … but not for everyone, I’m sure. It’s packed with big name stars who clearly believe in Schlosser’s fast food message – Greg Kinnear, Patricia Arquette, Bobby Cannevale, Kris Kristofferson, Bruce Willis and more. For those who want strictly entertainment, it’s not for you. For those who want to know about the myriad areas of damage that befall people, animals, and the environment, not to mention how your health is affected, from fast food burgers, you may appreciate the wake-up call. A number of fictional story lines are artfully woven together about individuals’ lives who are all affected by the world of meat-packing and fast food. I was already aware of a great deal of this, and it was still an eye-opener for me. The movie is about as far from the book as one could imagine – good fiction created from painstakingly researched non-fiction. Quite a feat!

So back to non-fiction and why we read it …  in this case, I wanted to read the facts behind a movie and learn more about how the fast food empire in America came to be built. What about you? Do you enjoy non-fiction as well as fiction? Perhaps more? Does it cleanse the “fiction palate” for you? And last, but not least, might it inspire your own writing?

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WingedMigration-flamingosThis movie, released in 2003, is one of the most spectacular I have seen. There is almost no narration, there are occasional notes on the bottom of the screen indicating the type of bird and the location and distance it flies during migration, and the most incredible music created just for the film. Not to mention breathtaking landscapes from one end of the world to the other. What is even more extraordinary, is how the birds were filmed – the view is most often from the bird’s perspective. For bird/wild bird lovers or just nature lovers, this is one to see. Available on Netflix.

Be sure to see the Special Features and you’ll be amazed at the 4 year chronicle it took to make this film and how the birds were filmed this way. I smiled in wonder all through the movie and again just watching the trailer. For a sneak peek, check out the trailer.

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Last week in the movies I saw the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are and was all but jumping up and down in my seat – can I wait!!! I came across it again today while online, and for those who have not seen it – I just had to share.

WhereTheWildThingsAreI’m assuming everyone has read this classic children’s book by Maurice Sendak, but if you haven’t seen the trailer for Where the Wild Things Are, check it out here on YouTube. The trailer alone is fabulous. The adaptation from book to movie is by Spike Jonze and from what I read, Sendak is very happy with it and feels Jonze’s interpretation enriches his story. Can’t beat Maurice Sendak’s blessing! The great song in the trailer is “Wake Up” by Arcade Fire and is perfect for the visuals. The movie is due out in October and will appear in iMax theaters as well.

Check out the Where the Wild Things Are Trailer – you’ll definitely have something to look forward to in October!

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Angels and Demons

AngelsDemonsGet ready, fans. Angels & Demons is opening in the movies this Friday. I decided that I was going to try and reread the book so I could keep track of all the plot and intrigue that will be ricocheting around the theater. I read Angels & Demons awhile back, and after The DaVinci Code. At the time I recall liking The DaVinci Code better, but I must say, as I allowed myself the luxury of a few hours of reading yesterday, that this really is engrossing. Sometimes a book IS better the second time around.

The ancient secret brotherhood of the Illuminati, the battle between science and religion for the meaning of God, the grandeur of Rome, a conclave of cardinals in the Vatican to elect a new Pope, and a device that could destroy them all – what’s not to like? Throw in a  good dose of conspiracy theory, lots of action and intrigue – I’m ready! 

All that’s left for me to figure out is can I carve enough time out of my schedule to finish the book … and still sleep.

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Having recently read The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian, and checked out a few YouTube videos of Sherman Alexie, I am interested in reading more. But already in a different book, I decided to put two of his movies in my queue. About a half week ago, I watched Smoke Signals.

alexie-smokesignalsI liked Smoke Signals; I was left thinking about a number of things afterwards — the characters, their situations, how the story was told. The two main characters, Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire, grew up together on the Spokane Reservation, bonded by Victor’s alcoholic father having saved Thomas when his doomed parents tossed him out the window of their home, engulfed in flames. Victor and his mother are abused by the alcoholic father, who although he loves them, will not give up drinking and leaves the rez. Sometime later, he passes away, and Victor wants to make the trip to Phoenix to pick up his father’s ashes. As Victor is unable to afford the trip, Thomas offers to pay if he can go along.  Victor is troubled and angry, Thomas, nerdy, always optimistic and forever telling intricate stories. Their trip becomes one of discovering friendship, and for Victor, learning who his father really was, forgiveness and understanding.

Something I liked about Smoke Signals, (based on The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Alexie’s short stories),  was how I could relate to the characters. The movie touches upon universal themes, yet watching it, I distinctly felt that I was watching and learning about another culture. Which I was. Much like watching the Maori in Whale Rider, I was aware of the similarities in what we all, as humans, go through, yet the differences in cultural beliefs and how the Indians go about solving some of their problems. Alexie makes clear what the issues really are on the rez. It gave me a lot to think about.

alexie-fancydancingThe Business of Fancydancing, based on Alexie’s poetry, was quite different. One of the successes of Smoke Signals for me was that I could really relate to Victor and Thomas. In Fancydancing, the main characters Aristotle Joseph and Seymour Polatkin are defined, yet for me, Alexie failed to create them as fully rounded characters deserving of my empathy. I believe one of the problems is the film has far too many special “techniques” or whatever one would like to call it. I get the metaphor of Seymour fancydancing, and other characters dancing in simpler blankets or more traditional Indian dress intermittently throughout the movie, but overall, there were just too many different moviemaking techniques jostling my sensibilities around. From the periodic one-on-one interviews with Seymour, to the washed-out-lighting home camera effects from the past, to Mouse playing violin in the background, or Aristotle singing in Seymour’s ear –  the constant jumble of treatments really took away from the continuity of the story. And I wanted to like this movie.

Alexie’s point is well-made about how hard it is to leave the rez, and how resented Seymour is for having left and made a success of himself. It is said the stories he tells in his poems are actually Aristotle’s experiences, and that he lies. In fact, Seymour admits to lying in the interview sections, and is seen doing so later in the movie. Called back to the rez from Seattle for Mouse’s funeral, Seymour confronts his past, and those still living there. The Business of Fancydancing is interesting, but not cohesive. The violent roadside scene with the young man needing assistance seemed dropped in to make a point about Indians’ anger at the white man, but out of place.

For me, the best development of the characters was sacrificed to the use of too many distractions. It was hard to feel truly empathic towards them as I did in Smoke Signals. Aristotle had problems, sure, but I wasn’t helped to like him. Was that Alexie’s intent? Seymour had many conflicts,  but I think I could have liked him a lot more, too. If I had to rate both movies I’d probably go for 4-5 stars for Smoke Signals and maybe 2 for The Business of Fancydancing. Because Alexie has access to the mainstream media and the opportunity to bring the message of the American Indian to moviegoers, it was disappointing that the message got lost in the shuffle.

I do intend at some point to read both of  Sherman Alexie’s books that these movies were based on. He’s still got my attention.

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Once

OnceIt was all about the music and a romance that grew and was in part denied. Reviews hailed it as a modern day musical; it won honors at the 2006 Sundance Festival.

I became very quickly enthralled by the music and by this street singer who was so earnest in his songwriting and singing. But what REALLY drew me in, aside from his talent – and hers – was the collaboration – no, that would be the wrong word – the joy, the magic, that happened when two or more people began playing music together. In an early scene, he (Glen Hansard) and she (Marketa Irglova) sit down in the music store, he giving her the basic tune lines on guitar and vocal, and she picks them up on the piano. Then they play together and it does become magcial. Later they go to what would seem to be an open mic of sorts in Dublin, and again, people begin to just play and sing together.

CandlelightIt took me back to college. I was in a NYC art school, known for art and architecture, and packed with creative people of all sorts. I remember sitting around at night over one of our places, always by candlelight – Michael, Kenny, Tom and Susie playing acoustic guitar, Wendy and I singing. We sang Dylan, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ian and Sylvia, Baez, Ochs, Joni Mitchell … whoever inspired us. On guitar – 6 and 12 string – they played off one another, inventing and spurring each other on. And we all sang. Whenever we got together this way, it was always amazing … and magical. No one was formally trained – we just did it, and long hours into the night. And laughter … there was lots of laughter.

And that’s what Once brought back to me. Pretty powerful. It was a romance in its own way, and it wasn’t clear where it was going between the two – you never really even heard their names – that wasn’t the point. But where it was going was the mutual sharing of each other through music, how they each grew and what they did with it.

I guess you could say it was a “small” film – I don’t remember ever seeing it in local papers. The music was great, and it was all written by the two people in the movie, who are in fact, musicians, not trained actors. About 60% of the movie was music – not Hollywood grand style – spontaneous and real. The filming was casual, using whatever light there was. At times, it was hard to understand what he said with the Irish accent. That didn’t matter much either.

I’d recommend it to anyone who loves music, who knows what it’s like to play music with others or has wanted to, and who is happy with a small, intelligent film. I’ll see it again.

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The Shipping News

ShippingNewsReading the book after I’ve seen the movie is a rarity for me. Usually, like many people I know who still love to read, I read the book first, and if a movie is made, go see it if I feel a decent interpretation might be made or if actors are in it who could carry the author’s characters. And usually, like many people I know who still love to read, I am disappointed in the movie.

In the case of `The Shipping News’ by Annie Proulx, I loved the movie and it did what every movie ought for me – filled my head with wonderful images and left me with a memorable tale – of redemption and the overcoming of a painful life … a great journey for a broken soul set against a backdrop of a rich but harsh country. Having seen the movie, I didn’t know what to expect from the book.

First, Annie Proulx has done her homework – she truly researched the culture of Newfoundland, where most of the story takes place. Her descriptions soon have your imagination spinning. But what initially set me off was her writing style … terse, incomplete sentences, often almost like commentary. It made it a bit more difficult for me to connect. But the more I read, the more it seemed that she was writing as a Newfoundlander, and indeed her style is like the speech of its residents. Soon, it drew me in and had me feeling one with this brusque language.

What I now find most impressive – and I’ve not finished the book yet – is that Ms. Proulx has successfully made me forget everything in the movie and live in her story … no small feat. Only Kevin Spacey, who played Quoyle, remains, and that is because I find him a phenomenal actor. But even there, he is better looking than her character, being neither as heavy nor having as enlarged a chin. More and more, as I read, I’m seeing the author’s beleaguered hero of `The Shipping News’.

If you enjoy a good novel with some meat on its bones, pick it up. If Annie Proulx’s style is off-putting at first, I’d recommend pushing on through it – you’ll soon be engrossed. And I love reading a book that I can’t wait to get back to.

p.s. Having finished reading the book, I again went back to see the movie … and in this case, I found one enriched the other, something rather unusual.

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