Sunday, October 28, 2007

Movies and plays

Movie topic #1: Saw the preview for The Golden Compass today. I read the trilogy a few years ago - long enough that I realize I'm going to have to reread the books. I admit the movie looks intriguing - beautifully done, visually stunning, etc. I know we've been discussing - on goodreads? are you all planning on seeing it?

Movie topic #2: (can we write about non-book related movies?) Just took my Girl Scouts to see Hairspray. 2 liked it, 2 didn't, 2 were indifferent. The adults loved it. Great music, preachy story line, but hey. And who can't help but giggle seeing John Travolta in drag....

Play: M and I saw Lion King on Thursday - not the movie, the Broadway over-production. I was totally hoping to hate it. Disney, overdone, etc. Just like I used to get so annoyed with the Guthrie for their big huge over productions. But I couldn't hate it. I tried. The costumes were truly stunning, and visually it was quite a treat. The first scene really is quite impressive. A couple of the actors had amazing voices - gotta love that. So, while I did end up really enjoying the experience, I still refused to pop for a $45 t-shirt. ugh. Some things are still overdone........

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


With Halloween approaching, I thought of a seasonal topic: literary Halloween costumes.

This came to mind because I was recently reading Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu; one of the characters, a precocious 9-year-old girl, insists on being Gandhi for Halloween. Her father has to talk her into wearing an extra layer to keep her warm in a Minnesota October, and talk her out of the necessity of having hand-loomed fabric. Her costume is described as follows:
“Sophie wears a tan leotard and tights (Bennie’s victory) under a white cloth wrapped around her like a toga. Her thin blond hair is plastered against her head, and she wears little round glasses from The Thrift Shop. Gramma helped her make a little mustache this morning.”

She is contrasted with other kids who are, among others, Uberman, Piranhasaurus, and Dementia; and Nilknarf and Zalfutz from the musical Alienz. In real life, too, a vast preponderance of costumes on the market are licensed characters – I just spent some scary time wandering through Halloween Adventure stores looking for costumes that I could deconstruct for my kids.

Are there any characters that would make good Halloween costume subjects? And are there any other good literary descriptions of costumes?

BTW, T is going to be Herakles – we bought a lion costume on eBay that he can wrap around as a cloak. A is going for the even more obscure: he will be Argos, the 100-eyed guard of Io. It turns out that the eyeballs we bought don’t stick with hot glue, so guess who is sewing 98 eyeballs onto a hat and sweatpants for him?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Do I or Don't I?

I need a bit of advice, o fellow book readers!

I am about 1/2 way through Special Topics in Calamity Physics. Given its immense popularity and "hipness," I am embarrassed to admit I am seriously considering stopping..... I'm not sure I can endure another "I'm such a cool high school kid with a bottle of vodka doing stupid things" chapter.

Someone tell me... does it get better? Come on, we know Hannah is going to die, so when does that happen? Can we get going? Is it worth hanging in there?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

End of summer gardens

I'm going to take a tangent from books to gardens for a post.... we are very near the end of the gardening season, and as much as I love gardening, I also love this time of year when I don't have to! I'm not sure I'd be as enthusiastic a gardener in a climate where I could work all year round....

In the last few weeks, I have a newly planted delphinium blooming for the 2nd time - what a trooper! I picked the last few tomatoes - they won't get any riper outside, that's for sure. And, here's to show you that you really should procrastinate -- I actually planted my bulbs on time this year - in mid-September. But guess what - my crocuses are COMING UP already! I'm not sure that's a good sign!

My rain garden is getting a good workout these last few weeks. I ended up changing the berms to force the overflow to go around my year-old Japenese lilac tree. I think it was getting a bit too much water....


I just picked up ten books from the my reserve area of the library today and there are six or seven sitting around the house! (curse my memorization skills and that darn personalized library barcode!) How do you decide what to read next? Much of the time I feel constrained by the non-renewable books and have to read them first, even if I'm not necessarily in the mood for them.

I find stopping for a bit, reading EW and watching Heroes takes some of the pressure off the sight of the Stack. I'm enjoying the goodreads world with you all, but boy, it adds to that growing list at the library!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

"The Seeker"

Ever since “The Seeker” came out, I’ve been thinking a lot about books that get made into movies – specifically childhood favorites that are butchered during the transition from page to screen. I didn’t have high hopes for The Dark is Rising making a successful transfer, and when I re'ad reviews mentioning an army of snakes led by an albino cobra (!!!), I knew that this was one movie I’d skip.

My jaundiced views about film adaptations date to childhood. I wasn’t a big movie-goer, and I’m not sure when it occurred to me that books sometimes became movies. I’m quite sure that I didn’t see “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971) on its first run because I saw it at the University Theater in Berkeley, a funky old theater that showed a different double feature every day. Also, I’m pretty sure that I first read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in 2nd grade, and I saw the movie after that. In any case, I remember it as one would remember some traumatizing event of one’s youth – it ranks up there with the death of my pet fish. From the first moment that Gene Wilder walked onto the screen as Willy Wonka, I sat in outrage. How, how, how could the filmmakers have gotten it all wrong? Willy Wonka didn’t look like that. The title was incorrect. And on and on. The final indignity was the great glass elevator, which wasn’t all clear, but instead looked like a gilded garlic clove.

This should have prepared me for the animated version of Charlotte’s Web in 1973. I badgered my mother to take me to it when it was first released, full of misguided expectations that I would see something that matched my inner visuals. This experience is not branded into my memory the same way as “Willy Wonka” is, but I do remember my mother grumbling about my ingratitude when I complained all the way home about the inferior adaptation.

Since then, I have avoided movies based on my favorites…Disney’s version of The Black Cauldron? Skipped it. “A Ring of Endless Light,” with Mischa Barton as Vicky Austin? No way.

And yet, I have found that I don’t have to dismiss all adaptations. When I saw the first Harry Potter movie, I was thrilled because it looked exactly the way I had imagined – the Great Hall with its long tables and floating candles most of all. I know that movie was criticized for its slavish following of the book, but for me, it was just what was needed; the subsequent movies have departed more from the sequels, but they retain the overall look and feel of the originals, and so I have enjoyed them as well. Have I mellowed as I get older? Or do I just have a different perspective because of my field, in which I regularly read interpretations of ancient texts? When it comes to ancient works, I understand that translations are acts of interpretation, and I may or may not agree with the translators’ priorities. In addition, I regularly teach that myth in antiquity was fluid and changed in retellings according to the requirements of genre and generation. So why not modern film adaptations?

With this new perspective, I’ve been able to watch some film versions of beloved childhood stories. The live-action “Charlotte’s Web” from 2006 retained the look of the Garth Williams illustrations in my well-thumbed volume, and I have to admit that I didn’t really notice changes from the text, although there surely were some. And to my delight, Tim Burton’s “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (2005) finally exorcised the demons raised by the earlier version. Burton restored the original title, but in fact his rendering is even further from the original than the Gene Wilder one: his phantasmagoric version is interspersed with Willy Wonka’s troubled flashbacks, and the Oompa Loompas perform a whole series of genre song ‘n’ dance spectacles. But it works. It’s funny, irreverent, and I loved it. Oh, and the great glass elevator looks right.

But I’m still not going to go see “The Seeker.”