I might be a BookNerd, but I’ll confess right here and now that while I recognize “The Great Gatsby” as a deserved and beloved American classic, a portrait of the jazz age and a stellar work by it’s legendary author, I don’t love the book. I know Jay and Nick and Daisy and Jordan and what happens to them, but I’ve read it and I don’t honestly feel any desire to re-read it. (In truth, I find the real-life story of F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife, Zelda, to be far more interesting.)
That said, I really like Baz Luhrmann as a filmmaker. His “Romeo and Juliet” and “Moulin Rouge” are both stunning examples of what can be done in the cinematic format. I’m even forgiving him that terrible “Australia” movie that was like fourteen movies in one and dragged on and on and on. No one’s perfect all the time. (Though I will say that the only movie I’ve ever loved Nicole Kidman in was “Australia” – She was wonderful.)
So, on Mother’s Day, I saw Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.”
And I really liked it.
If you’re expecting a line-by-line film adaptation of the book, you’ll probably wind up hating the movie. A bunch of things have changed – there’s a framing device added to explain how Nick tells the story, and the role of Jordan is significantly altered. Whatever. It’s a movie, and a movie of a book that some would even consider un-filmable, as much doesn’t happen and many character’s motivations are completely insular and hidden from the reader.
Movie-wise, “The Great Gatsby” is the glittery and opulent story of champagne and pretty, rich, unhappy people. It’s decorated with a great soundtrack that blends music from the actual era of the time with modern sounds courtesy of the likes of Jay-Z, Beyonce, Lana Del Ray, Florence + The Machine. I’m going to buy the soundtrack ASAP. Baz Luhrmann keeps things dancing along like the party at Gatsby’s estate. There are some nice touches for the fans of the book and folks with knowledge of Fitzgerald’s life, too. And the casting is pretty darn perfect. It takes an epic movie star to play Jay Gatsby, and Leonardo DiCaprio shows up and kills it. He’s the best thing about the movie. Joel Edgerton is also flawless as unlikable Tom Buchanan. Carey Mulligan and Tobey Maguire are both quite servicable, if slightly bland, as Daisy and Nick. The role of Jordan Baker is played by a stunning newcomer named Elizabeth Debicki, who reminded me of Emily Blunt, and who does great things with her scenes.
Take the book and movie separately, and you’ll be fine. Both are the visions of their creator – Fitzgerald and Luhrmann – and both are worth your time.
PS – I’m probably going to have to watch the Robert Redford film version now, aren’t I?
After falling rapturously in love with Paul Gallico’s novel “The Poseidon Adventure,” I was crazed to see the 1972 smash hit film adaptation. My husband located it, and we sat down to watch it.
I was so disappointed, and practically heart-broken over what could have been. Honestly, I wish I’d never watched it. In another case of Hollywood gutting all the things that are great about a book, “The Poseidon Adventure” becomes a pretty bland disaster movie, without the grit and brutality of the source novel.
(Warning: There be spoilers ahead.)
Here are just the main five changes that drove me nuts.
1. The Shelbys.
My absolute favorite people in the novel are the Shelby family – Mom and Dad, teenage daughter, and young son. To me, they were the heart of the whole thing, this deeply flawed family trying to survive together. And it’s Jane Shelby, the mother, who remains for me the most memorable character in the entire novel. When, in a dull moment in the middle of their attempt to escape, Jane takes Robin off to use the restroom and winds up losing the boy, only to never find him again and never know what happened to him, it’s the most chilling thing one could possibly imagine. And Jane’s meltdown rant to her husband before she switches gears and realizes she has to go on with the attempt to get rescued, even though it means leaving her little boy behind somewhere in the underwater darkness, is brilliance.
The movie messes this all up. Right from the start – Mom and Dad Shelby aren’t even in the movie, and the teen daughter and younger son are traveling alone. Of course, since it’s Hollywood, they can’t really lose the little kid, so he makes it all the way to the end, precocious as any child actor is expected to be.
In addition, the book has teen daughter Shelby getting raped by a rogue crew member after separating from the crowd, then comforting this terrified sailor dude, letting him go, and carrying that secret of what happened with her all the way til the end. It’s really bizarre and riveting, and of course Hollywood did away with the whole thing, opting instead to have her follow the Reverend around with doe-eyes the whole darn time.
2. Shut up, dudes.
Gene Hackman (as the heroic Reverend who leads the survivors) and Ernest Borgnine (as a cranky cop) were clearly given only one piece of direction: Louder! These two normally quite good actors yell so much throughout the entire film that my husband, who sat down to watch this mess with me, finally couldn’t take it anymore and exclaimed “WHY DO THEY KEEP YELLING? THEY’RE THREE FEET APART!” Then he dubbed Hackman “Reverend Bossypants,” and things went on.
3. Don’t mess with Shelley Winters.
So I’m sure if you know one thing about this movie, it’s that Shelley Winters swims in it. Right? That’s undoubtedly the most famous thing about the film. And that part is totally in the book, and it’s an amazing scene. However, the filmmakers messed with it, leaving the awesomeness of Belle Mason (Ms. Winters role) diminished.
Book: The survivors reach a point where, in order to move on, they have to swim through an underwater hallway to come up inside the next room. This isn’t the best news they’ve gotten, as who knows what lies underwater. Belle Mason, who has until this point been “the fat old lady” at the back of the pack, suddenly steps up and announces that she is a former world record holding swimmer, and can hold her breath underwater for a long time, so she takes the rope, swims the hallway, ties on the line, and returns for the rest of the survivors. All of them make it through, thanks to her. Sadly, Belle dies at the end of the novel, right before they’re rescued, which is a quite a while after the swimming heroics.
Movie: Reverend Gene Hackman Bossypants refuses Belle’s offer to go first, and decides to do it himself. He dives in, and gets tangled underwater. Belle dives in after him to save the day, and pulls him through the tunnels to safety, where she has a heart attack and dies before anyone else gets through the underwater passage.
Dumb. Yes, she saves the big hero, but then she bites it.
Oh well. She got an Oscar nomination for her role, if nothing else.
4. Nonnie (and all the other people on the ship)
Um, The Poseidon is a big-a$$ cruise ship. Which means that, should a disaster strike, the only people on the ship are not likely to all be in one room, regardless of New Years Eve festivities. There would be crew members doing their jobs, there would be kitchen staff…
In the book, when disaster strikes most passengers are in bed in their rooms with seasickness, since the waters have been really rough on the voyage so far.. Only a small number of people (the strong stomach club) are in the grand ballroom when the moment happens, and it’s of them that our main group of survivors comes from. Once these few people have begun their escape attempt, they frequently encounter other – living and dead – people along their way. There’s the wig master for the onboard entertainment who’s out of her mind and falls to her death, there’s a bunch of sailors and crew members, and then there’s a lone English dancing girl named Nonnie, who falls in with our heroes and begins a romance with Martin, the haberdasher from Evanston, IL. (Which gets downright dirty at one point.)
At the end of the book, as our remaining survivors are getting rescued, they see other people who were on board getting into lifeboats as well, which makes them question – Should they just have stayed put? If they had, maybe they wouldn’t have lost the people they lost. It’s a very un-black-and-white ending.
The movie just ignores the fact that there would be other people onboard, other than a scene in a room with a bunch of dead crew members, and a part where Hackman and Co. encounter a group of people going the wrong direction. Here, Nonnie is the singer at the New Years festivities, and gets pulled along with the group by Martin (played by a likable but strangely cast Red Buttons) who falls for her, but in a sweet and innocent kind of way.
In the movie, Nonnie is annoying. She’s not far from the blonde woman in “Night of the Living Dead” who’s so terrified she just stops talking and being at all useful, leaving everyone around her to drag her along and do all the work. The book’s version of Nonnie is more lively. She might be kinda dumb, but by god she’s right in the frey with the rest of them, which makes her much easier to care about. Frankly, while watching the movie, I (out loud) told Mr. Red Buttons to leave her behind more than once.
5. Linda Rogo is not a hooker!
Book: Linda Rogo, the cop’s wife, is a one-time could-have-been movie starlet, who gave up her career to marry her husband, and has resented him ever since. They bicker and are a royal pain in the ass the whole way through, but Linda (just before the end) falls and gets impaled on something and she dies, the end.
Movie: Linda Rogo is a former hooker who married a cop. They still bicker, and they’re still a pain the ass, and she still dies, but yeah – she used to be a hooker. Really, Hollywood?
Sigh. So yeah, there are five major things that annoyed the crap out of me as I watched this movie. In addition, there are things like wondering why the Turkish guy became Irish in the movie, and the lack of urgency about the movie that the book is full of – this ship could sink at any second, maybe we don’t need to have a five minute chat about whatever.
There are a few things about the movie I will applaud, however. Namely, the set designs, which are pretty darn great, and the appearance of Leslie Nielsen as the ship’s captain.
But yeah, as a book-to-movie adaptation, this is such a fail.
Apparently, in the years since it’s release, the movie has gained a camp reputation, with midnight showings at New Year’s, and audiences yelling lines at the screen. This sounds like fun, and I might consider re-watching the movie if I got to see it that way.
NOTE: It has been brought to my attention that there is a 2005 mini-series called “The Poseidon Adventure,” in which the boat sinks because it got blown up by terrorists. Now, this sounds like a horrible idea, right? What if I told you it stars Rutger Hauer, Steve Gutenberg, Adam Baldwin (from “Firefly”) and Alex Kingston (from “Doctor Who.”) Mhmmm. Looks like I’m going to have to watch that, too. Oh, my life. 😉
It was a dark and stormy mid-afternoon when I sat down to watch this movie.
Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” has been adapted a billion times – into movies, failed Broadway musicals, TV shows, video games, you name it. (PS – If you don’t know about the “Dracula” puppet musical from “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” you’re missing out on one of life’s great joys.)
I doubt any of them are as well-known as the 1931 Bela Lugosi film adaptation.
Let’s not pretend for a second that this movie is a spot-on adaptation of Stoker’s book. It’s not. To begin, it’s not Johnathan Harker who goes to Castle Dracula to help arrange the purchase of Carfax Abbey, but Renfield. And I don’t recall Stoker’s Renfield ever wandering into Castle Dracula looking like he stepped out of the pages of “The Great Gatsby.”
And here, Mina is Dr. Seward’s daughter, whereas Stoker’s Seward is one of Lucy’s multiple suitors. (Arthur Holmwood and Quincey Morris are nowhere to be found.) Oh, and she gets bitten and starts to turn into a vampire before even the halfway point of the film. But, you know, she gets fabulous and decadent costumes and she gets better from being a vampire in the end.
Whatever. All the changes — even the dumb ones — are totally irrelevant.
The Lugosi “Dracula” is, despite it’s age, a truly creepy horror movie. Lugosi’s iconic performance is the one all other modern vampire portrayals are based on, down to Count von Count on Sesame Street. Yes, some of the effects (bats on strings) would be considered cheesy by modern film audiences, but it all still works. When Dracula first appears, along with his vampire wives, it’s eerie and timeless. When Van Helsing realizes that Dracula isn’t appearing in a mirror, it’s a great cinematic moment. The sets are gorgeous and everything looks rich.
This is old Hollywood doing what they did best.
And it holds up.
Especially on a rainy fall afternoon.
[Note: Personally, I’m partial to the Francis Ford Coppola/Gary Oldman “Dracula” film, as it’s thrilling and gorgeous and was my first real intro to the story. Also, Gary Oldman KILLS it in the title role, and he’s supported by a dynamite cast of actors. Except Keanu Reeves, who is the strangest Johnathan Harker ever. That’s all I have to say about that.]
Release Date: December 25, 2012
What do you think?
“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen,” in theaters now, is exactly that kind of film. It’s based off a novel that I haven’t read by Paul Torday, and turned out to be a totally compelling few hours of film entertainment. A trailer for it had caught my eye, and so when my husband shooed me out of the house to get some much-appreciated “me” time, I headed to the movie theater and got lost in the dark for a while.
Alfred “Fred” Jones (played by Ewan McGregor) is a leading British expert on fisheries. He’s got poor social kills and really only cares about fish, and there’s a suggestion he may have Asperger’s syndrome, though I can’t say for sure. (I imagine the book goes into that more.) That said, he’s quite likable. When a wealthy Sheik who loves to fish wants to introduce salmon into the Yemen, a consultant named Harriet (Emily Blunt) has to convince Fred to lead the project, even though Fred claims it’s impossible. Thanks to the Prime Minister’s Press Secetary’s search for an Anglo-Arab goodwill story in the middle of nothing but war coverage, Fred and Harriet are soon off like rockets trying to bring this probably impossible project to life – they’re whisked off to the Sheik’s palace and then to Yemen, both escaping unhappy home lives. Harriet has an M.I.A. soldier boyfriend, and Fred’s marriage is completely loveless. As happens in so many films, these two strangers miles away from home form an unlikely friendship that may or may not lead to something more.
The delightful film is way funnier than I expected it to be, probably due to Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt both being charming screen presences. McGregor, especially, does wonders with a role that other actors might have gone an entirely different way with. Kristin Scott Thomas, as the Press Secretary, is a stitch as well – just wait for the scene where she cuts her moody pre-teen son down to size with a few well–phrased sentences. Amr Waked, as the Sheik, is also an interesting presence. He’s an actor who is clearly having a blast playing his role, an going toe to toe with McGregor’s Fred about science vs. faith.
Also, Emily Blunt’s Harriet might have the cutest wardrobe I can remember in recent movies. I just needed to point that out.
I cannot tell you how much I want to go stand in a river after seeing this movie. Well done, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.” Well done, you.
I totally saw the big screen, blockbuster adaptation of Suzanne Collins’ “The Hunger Games” a week ago and have been totally remiss in writing about it.
There be spoilers ahead, yo.
To begin, there’s no way the movie could have lived up to the books. There are far too many readers around the world who envisioned far too many things for the movie to make everyone happy. (I’m not even going to begin talking about the idiots who are peeved that Rue, Cinna, and Thresh are played by black actors. Really? I thought this was 2012.) The slight changes to the events and story didn’t bother me — I’m old enough to realize that not everything on paper can make it to the big screen, and I’m fine with that. The only change that stuck out to me was the disappearance of Madge — I’m curious if Madge will be making an appearance in the films at all, or if just written out completely. I’m fine either way, and they found a way to get the Mockingjay pin to Katniss.
Personally, I thought the film was a really good adaptation of a really great read. Jennifer Lawrence makes a perfect Katniss, all quiet strength and skill, and it’ll be cool to watch her develop as the other two books in the series become films. I found myself charmed by the boy playing Peeta, and was a little confused by how little play Gale got, but he’s got two more movies to show his stuff. I was incredibly moved by the death of Rue on film, even more so than I was when I originally read the book, largely due to the wonderful little actress who plays her. Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, and Elisabeth Banks were also all really great — and it’ll be neat to watch their characters evolve over the next few films. Well, those who survived this film anyway. 😉
The “Hunger Games” trilogy aren’t obvious books to make a leap to the big screen – they’re jumbly, some of the character development is shaky, and a whole lot of ground gets covered really fast — but they’re a smash success and so the movies were bound to get made. I’m pleased with the first film, and hope the filmmakers keep up the momentum with the next two (or three, I guess?) films.
Three more quick things —
1. Entertainment Weekly suggested that Ryan Kwanten (Jason from “True Blood”) should play Finnick in “Catching Fire.” I approve. Can that please happen?
2. Good luck to the writers/filmmakers in figuring out how a certain giant/game-changing event in “Mockingjay” is going to be translated to the big screen. My friend Annie and I have our theories.
3. I’ve heard some mention that Jennifer Lawrence is too “fat” to play Katniss, since she’s from a district where people are starving. Here’s my response to that.
A. Katniss hunts like a mofo, so she’d be in pretty good shape.
B. No one’s commenting on how the actors playing Gale and Peeta are both from the same district, and muscular dudes. They don’t look hungry either.
C. Did you see Jennifer Lawrence in the orange “Girl on Fire’ dress? B&^%h, please.
D. Shut up. The end.
Happy Hunger Games! May the odds be ever in your favor.
This rather star-studded film adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” looks like the timeless book might have made a lovely transition to the big screen, or at leasts that’s what I’m getting from the trailer.
Who doesn’t love “To Kill a Mockingbird,” right?
This film, written and directed by Mary Murphy, talks about the enigmatic writer behind the timeless novel, the story of the story, and the impact it had (and still has) on the world. A ton of folks – from Wally Lamb to Oprah Winfrey to a teacher from Alabama – read from and talk about talk about the power Scout, Atticus, and the rest of the gang had on their lives as readers and as people. Though the elusive Ms. Lee does not take part, her sister is interviewed, and audio from interviews with Ms. Lee are showcased as well, including an interview from 1963 where she says she was working on a second novel. Maybe some day the world will be lucky enough to read it. [If you’re curious, Harper Lee’s friendship with Truman Capote is discussed as well. Of course.]
If you love Scout and the gang, check out this informative and entertaining film. Kudos to Mary Murphy for putting together such a comprehensive and loving tribute to one of the best books ever written.
“Newspapers? Magazines? What are those?”
I fully expect my son to ask me these burning questions some day years from now, when e-readers have taken over the land and physical forms of print media have gone the way of the dinosaur and the dodo bird. Though I don’t think physical books will ever go away, it can’t be denied that other forms of print media will likely fade away and evolve into online-only publications.
Recently, two documentaries (that I watched via Netflix) got me thinking about this.
The first is “The September Issue,” in which infamous dragon lady Anna Wintour (Editor of “Vogue” magazine) and her talented staff put together the magazine’s most important issue of the year. (You remember Wintour, right? She’s the one Meryl Streep plays, albeit with a changed name, in “The Devil Wears Prada.”)
Both docs are very well-done and smartly focus on the more colorful characters at both establishments. “Page One” attaches itself mostly to reported David Carr, a former drug addict turned cantankerous old coot of a great reporter. This guy doesn’t mess around, and he’s fascinating to watch. “The September Issue” largely rests on the shoulders of Grace Coddington, the magazine’s creative director, who comes off incredibly likable and as the hero to Wintour’s ice queen villain. In one amazing sequence, Coddington ropes the documentary cameraman into appearing in a photo shoot. Wintour likes it, but tells them to airbrush out the cameraman’s belly, and that he needs to go to the gym. Coddington, the eternal hero, gets on the phone and gets the airbrushing cancelled – “Not everything can be perfect in this world,” she says, with a glint in her eye. She’s great – at her job (as evidenced by the photo shoots she supervises, which are obviously the best of the lot) and as a character in this film. She’s really great. Wintour is riveting to watch, too, though she never comes close to likable. (Her daughter, on the other hand, comes off immensely likable, especially when she declares she won’t become a fashion editor.)
Overall, both these docs are interesting to watch and very enlightening to those who care about the people behind the mirrors. “The September Issue,” by focusing one on singular goal – to get this massive issue out on time – succeeds better than “Page One,” which meanders about a bit, addressing many things on a surface level and not much in depth. There’s talk about Twitter, lying journalists, lay-offs, the death of the newspaper, the war, and some other stuff, but there’s no real compelling focus. (Though Carr is the hands-down star of the show, there’s isn’t enough of him.)
Definitely check out “The September Issue” if you want to be terrifically entertained by a documentary. (If you have the interest, “Page One” is also well done, and I’m not in any way slamming it. It’s just the obvious second place finisher in this race.)
I’m not sure if it’s a sign of my growing up, but I do believe Jane Austen’s flawed (and sometimes downright hated) novel, “Mansfield Park,” is replacing the much more fluid “Sense & Sensibility” to become my favorite of her works.
No one is more surprised than me. I’ve been a die-hard fan of the Dashwood sisters as long as I can remember, but lately I find myself much more drawn to a very different Austen heroine: Fanny Price.
Recently, I watched the 1999 film adaptation of “Mansfield Park” to see how it fared against my personal favorite version – the Billie Piper/Masterpiece Theatre one. It’s not bad. In fact, it’s pretty darn great if you can ignore the serious alterations and changes from the original novel. (The Masterpiece Theatre one, of course, is much more aligned with Austen’s original. Duh.)
In this film version, poor but plucky Fanny Price is sent to live with her wealthy relatives, the Bertrams. Fanny is accepted by her cousins as a sibling thanks to her charm and intellect, despite their being ordered to never accept her as their equal. This version of Fanny also writes letters and stories and appears to have a great deal of talent. She’s best friends with her cousin Edmund, and lets not lie, is in love with him. The Bertram clan are introduced to the attractive and appealing brother/sister duo of Henry and Mary Crawford, and the crushes begin all around – most notably, fancy Mary sets her eyes on clergyman-to-be Edmund. Sir Thomas Bertram is a hard man who doesn’t accept much frivolity. While he’s away, the young folk decide to stage a raunchy play – but Sir Thomas returns right as they’re about to begin, of course. It seems the distance and time have made Sir Thomas aware of how much Fanny has grown, so he declares they will throw a ball in her honor. By now, Henry has grown attracted to Fanny and begun to woo her. Though he’s charming enough, Fanny realizes he’s a rake and never really trusts him. When he asks for her hand in marriage, Fanny refuses and Sir Thomas sends her back to her poor family. Henry, however, doesn’t give up and continues pursuing her. Thinking Edmund is to marry Mary, Fanny accepts Henry’s proposal – and then wakes the next morning regretting it and takes it back. Henry throws a hissy fit and leaves. Soon Edmund arrives to take Fanny back to Mansfield Park, as Tom (the eldest Bertram brother, and a rogue) has fallen ill and may be dying. Returning home, Fanny discovers Tom’s sketchbook and realizes that Sir Thomas is up to some shady dealings with the slaves he owns in Antigua. When the scorned Henry runs away with Maria Bertram (who’s unhappily married to a doofus) the family is scandalized. Mary Crawford explains to them how, if Tom happens to die and she happens to marry Edmund, it’ll all work out just peachy for everyone. Disgusted by her proposal, Edmund breaks off their engagement. Long story short, Fanny and Edmund wind up together. Once again, duh. The film ends with a series of lovely tableaus of how things worked out, and it’s a sweet cinematic moment.
Frances O’Connor is a positively charming Fanny, and as likable a narrator as one can ask for. Cleverly, the script has her addressing many of her letters and stories directly to the camera, a move which helps enhance her appeal to the audience. Jonny Lee Miller doesn’t have a whole lot to do as Edmund, but whatever – he’s cute, he’s sweet, we get it.
The real surprises of this film are Harold Pinter (yep, THE Harold Pinter) as Sir Thomas, and Embeth Davis as Mary Crawford. You could have knocked me over when I realized that Pinter was in the movie, straight up. I had never realized that playwright Harold Pinter might actually be a person still around and working. He’s really great in this – alternately friendly and positively beastly. The stunning Davis makes Mary incredibly lovely and fun, even though we’re supposed to be rooting against her. This is made all the more awesome during her big final scene where she lays out her (rather ghastly) proposal.
(Hey, fans of “Doctor Who.” Remember the episode during the David Tennant reign with the blonde girl in the mirror? That’s Sophia Myles, and she’s in this, too, as Fanny’s younger sister, Susan.)
The screenplay, by Patricia Rozema (who also directed the film) definitely takes it’s liberties, particularly with Sir Thomas and the slave business. It’s a nice touch, adding a bit of social and political events to help better frame the piece – and most hits home when Edmund points out that, though they may not agree with slavery, the Bertrams live off the profits of the plantation Sir Thomas runs. In addition, this version of Julia does not elope with Mr. Yates, but instead gets a love letter from him at the very end of the film. Also, the stories Fanny writes are actually earlier works of Jane Austen’s, squeezed into the film as – in my opinion – a love letter to the author. All these changes actually work, so kudos to Rozema for having the balls to mess with a classic – which doesn’t always work out.
It’s a lively film, with gorgeous scenery and costuming. Jane Austen fans will appreciate the beautifully shot dance sequence at the ball. (Seriously, there cannot be an Austen film adaptation without a dance sequence. It’s a law or something.)