Thursday, September 30, 2010
Most films that have been adapted from a book tend to not live up to the book experience. And Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro is no exception.
I finally read the book a few months ago, and it is slow, and layered and rich, and quite methodical in its pacing. And it's worth the read. Getting inside the head of Kathy H. and her memories of childhood is a haunting journey. Kathy has no future and therefore, can't look ahead, so all she can do is look back. Kathy is a clone. A donor. Created for organ harvesting in an alternate reality timeline where cancer is extinct and people live into their 100's. They live this long due to "people" like Kathy H. and her friends Ruth and Tommy. They are raised at an alternative school instead of in a cold hospital. They are taught to read and paint. Then one day they will donate their first organ, and usually by about their 3rd or 4th donation, they will complete. Not die, as death is never really mentioned. Even the word, "complete" has a haunting and mysterious quality to it.
It is, however, difficult to connect sometimes with these characters because they come off as robotic. As if they're playing human, which I supposed is what they were taught to do at school. The big question of this story is do they have a soul? Do they? They lived. They experienced. They loved. They cried. They walked this earth among us. What makes a soul? What creates consciousness?
None of the characters really challenge their lot in life. They know as young children sort of what they are, but they don't really comprehend it. But they don't cling to life necessarily. Nobody runs away. Nobody fights the good fight. Kathy and Tommy attempt, briefly, to try to get deferrals, to hold off on completing so they can live together and love one another. But there are no such things for these "creatures." I kept wanting someone to scream at the doctors, at anyone really. To truly question the ethics of what they're doing. Then I ask myself, why? It's who they are. They were created to also be docile. To accept their path unconditionally.
The book gets into Kathy's mind in great detail, even though we're inside her thinking, there is still a bit of distance, which is what makes her a good character. However frustrating at times it can be. The luxury of that kind of intimacy is lost in the film. Carey Mulligan does the best she can with the role, with Kathy's silence. But I think without reading the book, things get lost. I could feel what she was thinking on screen because I remember reading what she was thinking. Without that knowledge, I think she comes off as cold. The movie is cold despite the haunting and melancholic cinematography that suits the mood of the story. Keira Knightley plays a pivotal role in the film, but she's not in it a lot, which is fine because this is Carey Mulligan's movie.
There's something missing in the film. Things get skipped or glossed over, or not fully developed, which I believe would have made the film richer. I'm not saying I didn't like the film because I did. Very much. I cried. But was I crying because of what was on screen, or was I crying because I was remembering information from the novel, which then brought more poignancy to the film? Not sure. This film isn't for everyone. If you like slow British films, like Remains of the Day, then this could be for you. I loved the musical score by Rachel Portman. One of my faves and an oscar winner for a reason. Her music brings about a lot of the emotions that the screenplay by Alex Garland leaves out. I do recommend reading the book first, or even reading it afterwards, but it's not something that you can rush through. It forces you to stay with it at its own time and pace.
We all complete. Just some of us complete sooner than others.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
With so much talent behind this film, one would think that something with substance would be made. Something new would be said. That Oliver Stone is going to make a statement about money, greed, materialism, family, and government. Instead, we get a film about tired cliches and boring scenes and relationships.
The film begins in 2000 when Gordon Gekko is released from jail for some kind of money fraud. There's some bullshit voice over narration by Shia LaBeouf. I can't remember what was said, but it was meant to probably be profound, philosophical or poetic. But who knows! Within a few moments, we are then transported to 2008, the year Wall Street imploded upon itself. We get a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the money types, one scene at a charity party lingered on the giant baubles worn by socialites for what felt like 5 minutes. We get the point, Stone! These people wear their money on their lobes, but do we need a badly edited sequence to get that message across?
It was a ridiculous film with a ridiculous cameo by Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen should be embarrassed (not only for being a terrible husband) but by his acting in this film. Why is he even in this film? And why would Gordon Gekko even look at him, let alone have a superficial asinine conversation with him? Anyway, not only is the script weak, the editing and actual film itself is amateurish. It's just a mess. A rich mess. You've got long lost fathers with estranged daughters, accidental pregnancies, cracker jack engagement rings, forced redemption and a pretty Hollywood ending with a nice tiny bow all tied up.
I don't know why this film was made. I don't know what the message was meant to be. Truth is, I don't care. And when a movie makes you not care at all then it's a failure.
Monday, September 20, 2010
The Princess Bride is a classic. That's what I've read, it's what I've heard through the fireswamp vine, and it's what I believe whole-heartedly. But is a twenty-three year old movie allowed to be a classic? Or does it need more time to steep in our pop culture psyche? Maybe on its silver anniversary it'll be honored with not only being a bona fide, respected classic, but one that will stand the test of time long after most of the original fans are gone. I know this because the film to this day, is still quoted almost everywhere, especially amongst my group of friends: "Have fun storming the castle", "What I wouldn't give for a holocaust cloak", "I only dog paddle", "Humperdink! Humperdink! Humperdink! "Inconceivable!" "My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die", and of course "As you wish."
I love The Princess Bride. I've loved it ever since I rented it on VHS. I never got the chance to see it on the big screen when it came out in 1987, not sure why I didn't go to the cinema. I think I was more interested in Corey Haim movies at that time. And what a mistake that had been! I've been rewatching this film countless times over the years and I tend to always catch something new about it. This time around, I finally noticed the "empire strikes back" glass behind the grandson's (Fred Savage looking adorable) bed.
This year at The Toronto International Film Festival, they had a free screening of it. On the big screen. In its original film format. And it showed. The film was choppy and recut and had glitches throughout, causing some scenes to end a tad earlier. Lucky for me, I know all the scenes and was aware of what was missed. Despite the film's age and I'm sure countless viewings over the years, it was a wonderful experience seeing it on the big screen for the first time. I was giddy with excitement! I got our tickets 2 hours in advance and patiently waited for it to start. And once it did, I was transported back in time. My heart filling with nostalgia. I was eager to see it on a large format scale because a television screen just sometimes isn't the same. I fell in love with the movie all over again. The attention to detail is just brilliant. Everything looked and felt like it was in a magical world and time. Princess Buttercup, played by the luminous Robin Wright, was a delight to watch. Her costumes took on a whole new look for me. I've always been a secret fan of wanting to dress like a princess, and no princess throughout cinematic history has a better wardrobe then Princess Buttercup (suck it, Anne Hathaway!) Her pale blue gown seen in two scenes was once my childhood dream wedding dress. My tastes have since changed. I'm also not looking for a Westley (Cary Elwes) type anymore. Well, for the most part I'm not. Sigh. Then again the course of true love never runs smooth.
The audience were a bunch of fans who were also eager to see the film. We laughed, we clapped, and I heard a few people whispering lines (me included). The final battle between Inigo Montoya and Count Rugen (Mandy Patinkin and Christopher Guest) was met with applause and cheers. I got goosebumps. (am showing my mega nerd colours now). And I am not afraid to admit that at the end when the grandfather (Peter Falk), after spending the day with his grandson, reading him the story of The Princess Bride by (the fictional) S. Morgenstern, says to him, "as you wish" that I got a little teary eyed. There is so much subtext and character revelation in that one line delivery that it's pretty much one of the most perfect endings to any film I've ever seen.
William Goldman wrote the original book (I reccomend reading it and comparing the two. I'm partial to the film version, because Princes Buttercup is very annoying in the book) and adapted it into the screenplay. He said it took years to make it to the screen. Goldman is a genius, especially in the screenwriting world. I am forever grateful that his imagination and talent created such a rich world and that he allowed us a chance to live inside that world for a while.
This is a film that every screenwriting, author, filmmaker needs to watch, and a script that needs to be read and studied. This film captures the imagination. It can't be duplicated, but it can be honored by staying true to its message. Love. Movies are meant to be an escape, but The Princess Bride is more than an escape. It's a transformation.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
Let's just get down to the basics. Is this book, One Day by David Nicholls, worth a read? Yes! Yes! Yes! It's a quick read, but don't lump it into the chick lit pile or think it's just a beach read because it is so much more than that. It's layered and complex and emotionally engaging. It beautifully captures the 20 year relationship between a man and a woman, and not all of it is romantic. It's about a friendship that goes through the wringer and somehow survives.
Each chapter takes place on the same day of each year from 1988 to 2008, jumping back and forth from Emma Morley's perspective to Dexter Mayhew's narration. I couldn't put the book down because I wanted to know what happens to them. I could relate to Emma's experiences and feelings as she navigates life from a young adult to a woman nearing 40. I also wanted to punch Dexter in the face on more than one occasion. Nicholls does a wonderful job in getting into these characters' heads and making them come alive and pop off that page. The ending, although I felt something coming for some reason, left me raw and vulnerable. I haven't had such an emotional reaction to a book in quite some time. It felt heavy in my hand towards the end for two reasons: I was sad to have the book end as I grew to care for these characters and their lives, and it was heavy also due to my heart breaking in a way. It is a very satisfying book as it makes you laugh, cringe, and probably cry.
Certain books are created, hopefully, to give us a look into the human experience. To connect us. To make us feel alive when our own lives sometimes feel mundane. Unaware that the mundane parts of life are what make up our lives.
A film starring Anne Hathaway and Jim Sturgess is in the works. I can't wait to see it, but I will have to ready myself emotionally and bring lots of tissues.
Monday, September 6, 2010
It has taken me 19 years to get my ass back to New York City and see a broadway show. I chose one show to see (I could have seen more, but the city has lots to do), so I chose the Tony award winning and Pulitzer prize winning musical, Next to Normal, and I am glad that I did.
It's a rock musical about a family dealing with secrets and heartache and battling manic depression and what that does to the whole family, from marital relationships, to parental and child relationships all the way to our relationships with prescription medications.
I wasn't prepared to be hit emotionally by this musical. It left me raw and vulnerable at the end, but also optimistic without having a nice pink bow wrapped around it and forced down my throat. I had to stop myself from sobbing too much as I didn't want to disrupt the others around me :) and I also had plans afterwards and didn't bring makeup to freshen up my face. Looking in the mirror at the end, there was definite puffiness and redness around my eyes. Sigh! And I'm glad there was. This is what a musical/theatre/art should do to someone. It should connect with us on some level. It should make us feel something within or even outside of ourselves. I think there's a part of all of us who feels like an "invisible girl".
PS. It made me want to write.