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Pull Up a Chair

7:55 am in Uncategorized by Margaret

Good morning! Please pull up a chair and share a little of your weekend with us. This morning I’m excited about going to see Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”. Though I am admittedly excited, I’m also extremely wary of it. Judging by the trailers and by how Jackson dealt with “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, it seems to me that it might be a repeat of some truly awesome eye candy, coupled with several awkward moments that will leave those of us who are fans of the book wondering why he cut this or added that.

Then there is the issue of him breaking the story into three separate films, despite being the shortest of the LotR related literature. So instead of “The Hobbit” being released in 2012, we have to wait until 2013 to see “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug”, and all the way until 2014 to finally wrap it up in “The Hobbit: There and Back Again”! I’m sorry but to me this smacks of plain greed. Why profit from one blockbuster film when you can get paid three times for adapting one book?

The reason I’m so anal about it is not just because of Jackson’s sometimes inexplicable additions and omissions in some of his films, it’s also because the book, “The Hobbit” is very special to me. Though the entire series has given me many hours of enjoyment, (along with the additions of The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin), The Hobbit is always going to be a very important book in my life. I read it when I was 16 and starting to sort some very deep issues out for myself. The Hobbit opened a lot of new unexplored areas of creativity within me, it helped me get past a very rough patch in my life and I’ll always associate it with overcoming some extremely difficult challenges.

Though most movie adaptations of books aren’t all I would like them to be, there are some cases where I can see why a directer or screenwriter would add some dialogue because narration is absent but much too often there is far too much license taken. I guess the best adaptation of a book in my opinion is the 1971 version of “The Andromeda Strain”. The only major plot deviation is that they changed the Dr Leavitt character into a woman and they switched poison darts to lasers in the system core. But hey, it was 1971 after all and lasers were all the rage, (though they never explained getting hit by lasers left Dr Hall all woozy). Other than those changes, it was pretty much word for word.

When I look at the cast and character list for The Hobbit, I see that Jackson is apparently going to explore some of the history only alluded to in the book and perhaps the deliberations and actions of the White Council, also only touched upon in the text. I can support those things, especially some of the history. The tantalizing bits that Tolkien only hinted at in The Hobbit were very frustrating and that frustration was to stay with me until my twenties when I found The Silmarillion. But I also see characters listed that are made up out of whole cloth. And not characters that seem to advance the story but people thrown in there to add some non existent sexual tension or romance. I’ll reserve judgment of course but that doesn’t make me optimistic. It is with a sense of mixed excitement and trepidation that I look forward to Sunday.

So what about you? What are some books you’ve enjoyed but been less than thrilled about when it comes to the film adaptation? Have you ever seen a film adaptation that you enjoyed as much or more than the book? Which books have you read that you would really enjoy seeing done on film? The floor is yours.

Pull Up a Chair

7:55 am in Uncategorized by Margaret

Good morning pups of fire and welcome to Thanksmas, or is it Christmasgiving? Either way, it’s officially that month or so between Thanksgiving and Christmas where people really don’t want to be at work, while the poor retail workers absolutely dread being at work, and where there are an average of 7,532,816 things that we need to get done between the beginning and the end of the holiday season. There are gifts to buy and wrap, cards to send, meals to prepare, trees to decorate… At this time of year, children look ever forward with anticipation to all the loot they are going to receive from tired parents and doting grandparents, none of whom get any credit for their efforts, thanking a fictional old man in a red suit instead.

Santa Claus Vector Image

Image via

It is also the time of year when the holiday movies appear on television and in theaters. Some of them are traditional holiday movies, about the holidays, while there is also a somewhat more recent holiday tradition of releasing big budget films in December. For example I’m going to see The Hobbit and though I’m dreading what Peter Jackson has done to that story, that’s a subject for another post. In this case, I want to focus on the more holiday oriented ones.

There are the seemingly endless iterations of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that I quite enjoy. I guess the classicalist of them is the Reginald Owen version from 1938. Though there is some license taken, it’s an enjoyable film that stays fairly true to the story. My favorite though has to be the 1984 film starring George C Scott as Scrooge. What a convincing miser he makes! I also very much enjoy the 1999 movie with Patrick Stewart, though can you believe I’ve never seen it all the way through? I always come in after it’s started! Of the more contemporary takes, I like Bill Murray’s Scrooged the best I think, mainly for Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present.

Then there are the traditionally drawn cartoons like A Charlie Brown Christmas, and the myriad of stop motion animations like Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman and my favorite, The Year Without a Santa Claus, featuring Heat Miser and Cold Miser.

There are also the live action comedies like A Christmas Story with Peter Billingsly and Melinda Dillon, a movie which, though it came out in 1983, I didn’t see until fully twenty years later. A tidbit I find interesting about that one is that Darrin McGavin’s character was listed in the credits as “The Old Man”, which seems appropriate as he was fully 17 years older than his screen wife, Melinda Dillon. I also quite enjoy While You Were Sleeping with the always wonderful Sandra Bullock. Normally I’m not much into chick flicks, and this one definitely fits that category, but this is one of the few exceptions I make. Apart from Bullock, Peter Boyle is in it, who I have liked since Young Frankenstein. I guess the real reason I enjoy that movie so much is that they remind me strongly of my own family of Midwestern Catholics. I can watch that movie and put myself into that situation and the responses would be identical. There are a few non-traditional movies I like, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, for example, isn’t exactly a Christmas movie, but how can we be immersed in this season without at least one…less than reverent…take on the person it’s dedicated to? A lot of people find that one objectionable but if my own deeply religious mother enjoyed it, then they need to grow a sense of humor. Besides, it’s educational.

I like watching them all. Some I have on DVD, like the last two that I mentioned, but only pull them out during Thanksmas, and some I wait to see on television during this time of year; and though I know the stories, I never really get sick of them. They make me laugh and cry and generally put me in a spirit which doesn’t come easily for me.

What about you? Which movies or television programs do you enjoy this time of year? Do you put on holiday music, walk around singing carols, or do you just plug you ears, put your head down, and wait for it all to go away. This is PUAC and there are no wrong answers, so jump right in!

The Science of Fiction

6:43 am in Uncategorized by Margaret

Vintage magazine, circa March 1960. (photo: photoscott via Flickr)

I imagine most of us watched plenty of Star Trek, Star Wars and etc. when we were younger, I’ll bet many of us still do. Even those who were never really science fiction fans had to be aware of it. You know the premise: A starship crew travels to far away places, encountering aliens, preventing invasions of the Earth and saving the universe as we know it. More times than not the travellers originate in the Sol system and radiate out to stars with familiar names like Rigel, Vega, Alpha Centauri or Altair. Our carbon based, oxygen breathing heroes almost never need environmental suits when adventuring on the planets orbiting these distant points of light and it usually only takes weeks, days or even hours to get to their destinations. This of course is important in order to keep the plot line moving. I mean who wants to watch a movie that mostly consists of people eating, sleeping, performing routine maintenance or just passing the time? The only movie that I can think of offhand that approached space travel in a realistic way was 2001 A Space Odyssey and it’s important to note that story took place almost entirely within our inner solar system, right up until the climactic and altogether confusing ending.

A couple of films have tried to approach space travel in a different manner. In both the Alien series and in the recently released Avatar film, the sticky, (and boring), subject of long space travel was dealt with by having the crew sleep through most of the journey, thus negating the need to bore the audience silly with make work tasks that will inevitably be the vast majority of any long space journeys. Most books, television series and movies though, use some form of faster than light travel. Battlestar Galactica and Dune used a less common version of science fiction faster than light travel in which coordinates were entered, the engines were engaged and the whole kit and caboodle was immediately folded into it’s destination. The more common versions of fictional faster than light travel is usually in the form of a warp drive arrangement in which space in front of the vessel is dramatically shrunk while the space behind it is expanded by an equal amount.  . . . Read the rest of this entry →