Saturday, January 6, 2007

OT: Racism on the Internet

Well, since starting this blog, my main dilemma has been attracting readers. I want this to be a really good site, where people can come and enjoy what I have to say and leave their own comments. My sister suggested looking for other blogs to comment on with my URL as a way of getting out there a little. So I looked.

Man, I should've put my hip-waders on first. Between here and the Craigslist forums, the racism and xenophobia are just out of control! Why is this? Is it the anonymity of the internet? Are people really afraid of something else and pinning it on blacks and Mexicans as a convenient scapegoat? Have we really made any progress at all beyond allowing blacks and whites to sit near one another at restaurants? It's very depressing. If you have a non-racist blog, please reply to this post with a link. I promise to visit. I need my faith in humanity restored.

Books into Movies

Yesterday, I got attacked by the flu, which caused me to miss work and miss my weekend trip up north to visit my boyfriend. About all I was capable of (when I was feeling strong) was lying on the couch and watching movies. Since I was too sick to go out, I had to settle for what I had here and wound up watching The Two Towers and the Return of the King. I hadn't watched either of them for a while, and although I was never a big fan of the books, I did read them before I saw the movie and felt they were a pretty faithful adaptation. I watched some of the special features about the making of the film, and was struck by how faithful everyone involved in the production tried to be to the movie, from Peter Jackson himself right on down to the people in wardrobe and the weapons and armor guys.

I was trying to think of other movies that I felt were excellent adaptations of books. Here are a few that I liked:

Hamlet, directed by Kenneth Branagh. Maybe this techically doesn't count, since it's a play, but I felt Branagh cast his version well and brought a lot of humanity to the role of Hamlet. He also filmed my favorite part of the play, the graveyard scene (Act V, scene I) exactly as it had always appeared in my imagination.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. In Anthony Lane's review of Return of the King, he said that adapting a book for the screen wasn't about filming it exactly, it was about finding what was cinematic about the book and bringing it out. Of all the HP movies, I think this one comes the closest to meeting that standard. They made some radical changes, but they did them well. The graveyard scene in THAT movie is just as terrifying as I'd hoped, and the actor who played Moody did as well as Alan Richman does as Snape.

Memoirs of a Geisha. It could've been better, but overall it was very good, and also just a beautiful film to watch.

Some awful ones:

The Great Gatsby. WTF? This is one of my favorite books, and it would film so well. They made an absolute mess of it. I've never seen the entire movie, just the last half on cable once. It was so lousy that I've never been moved to see more.

The Black Cauldron. This is the second book in Lloyd Alexander's Chronicles of Prydain, my favorite series growing up. Disney made an absolutely terrible animated version of it in the early 80's. The book is very dark and serious, dealing with large themes like the nature of heroism and of good and evil. It had some absolutely wonderful characters, including Eilonwy, a ballsy, funny sorceress princess. The movie turned Eilonwy into a wimpy cheerleader, left out many of the characters and had Taran leading everyone to a quick victory over evil, which he doesn't even do in the book -- he's only supposed to be around 16. Just about the most disappointing movie I've ever seen.

Flowers in the Attic. OK, nobody will mistake this book for great literature, ever. But I'm willing to bet that many women my age group, were, like myself haunted and captivated by this creepy series of books at some point in their lives. I wasn't allowed to see the movie when it came out, but I remembered how scary the previews were. I was really let down when I finally had the chance to see the movie as an adult. True, Flowers will not go on the shelf next to William Shakespeare, but it deserved a better adaptation than that.

What are some of your favorites and least favorites?

The Fourth Summer of the Traveling Pants is coming out this week

I was pretty surprised to see that the last time I was in Borders. I read the first three books last summer, and the last one felt like the end of the series. I really enjoyed the first three books. Ann Brashares succeeded at making her characters "real people" instead of caricutures, the way teenage girls often are in novels. It's easy to fill a book up with archetypes. Many authors have made entire careers off of it. Personally, I found something to relate to in each character, and I was pleased that she didn't give a "Hollywood ending" to each girl's story. It's an important message, absent from a lot of pop culture: your life, no matter how careful you are, is going to include some bad shit, but you can handle it. Each character does, in her own way.

She also didn't go too far the other way. When Bridget had sex before she was ready to, many people (especially the authors of the "problem novels" that I grew up with) would have had Bridget get pregnant or get syphilis or something. They always talk about the emotional consequences of doing it before you're ready in sex ed, but this is the first time I'd seen them actually explored in a novel or even in a movie. Carmen also could've easily spun out of control in dealing with both her father's and mother's remarriage, but rather than make her some kind of melodramatic 16-year-old alcoholic or drug abuser, she just worked it out.

At any rate, I'm interested to see where she's taking the series next!