February 12, 2006

Notes from the Trenches

Revving up the screening schedule this last week has left me revving it back down this coming week with the bad following the worse and, besides, better things to do in the form of the young Boulder Film Festival, running for three days about thirty-minutes up the road this coming weekend, and featuring a few fine guests and films. Spent most of this week (and weekend) watching screeners from the fest and wondering if I’m going to get to interview Maria Bello while she’s in town. Seems like whenever I say anything, it’s jinxed, so there you have it – but I want to mention that among the many injustices in the Oscar nominations, Bello and Viggo Mortensen being shut out of the performance categories loom large as perhaps the most egregious. Another exciting interview being lined up that I don’t want to mention yet, but I will say that it’s with a personal hero of mine when I was just an embryonic critic-to-be instead of this big ugly man-critic in full-aggressive flower that you see before you.

The “Dueling Divas” series at the Denver Public Library moves forward at a healthy clip last week with a well-attended screening of the Bette Davis three-hankie weepie Dark Victory. It hasn’t aged well. With three Bette flicks to review for the muthasite (including this one), I’ll keep my own counsel – but I will say that Bogie is badly miscast as an Irish stable-hand and Ronald Reagan is perfectly cast as a rich lush with champagne bubbles in his head. This week: Possessed, the second Joan Crawford flick by that name, and one of her best performances. They were all good. Well, at least until she hooked up with Roger Corman.

Really disgusted by this article about Netflix
and their policy of “throttling” their best customers by slowing the pace of their rentals. I hope this thing becomes a class action. As of now, though, consider me an ex-customer. I’m sure they could give a shit, but there’s too much of this stuff in our culture now, isn’t there, of lack of accountability and surplus of deception. “Truthiness”, right? Well, this is the first chance I get to do something about it and so, I’m taking it.

With the death of Peter Benchley – bears asking if anyone’s actually read Jaws? Y’know, the one where there’s an adulterous affair between Chief Brody’s wife and the Richard Dreyfuss shark expert? Those looking for examples of the books being much, much worse than the movies based on them: look no farther than the films of Alfred Hitchcock and, of course, Jaws. Other prime examples? Controversial ones?

Here’s this week’s screen capture. May need to take a page out of Bill’s playbook somehow is it turns out, too, to be too easy. This is the first of seven in the fourth cycle and it is a screen capture, so issues such as aspect ratio matter. Thanks, Jack, for the link to the LAN player. It's small, easy, and works like a dream.

Hot off the Presses (Feb 14)

Happy Valentine's day, folks. Saw Eight Below last night and had the pleasure of listening to some woman sitting behind me, dangerously involved in the picture, urging the dog heroes on with not-so-whispered, tearful entreaties of "Be careful, honey, c'mon, C'MON" and entreaties to a pup playing dead of "Be there, Maya, c'mon, baby, BE THERE" as Paul Walker zombie-walks to its side to administer what I was sure was going to be the kiss of life. Alas, the dog wakes up by itself. This is the kind of audience "interference" that studios hope will corrupt a critic's experience of a film favorably - but there are two truths about this tactic: the first is that there is nothing I can say that will make the kind of people who see this film not love it; and the second is that this kind of dimwitted audience intrusion almost invariably makes good critics crankier and less likely to give the film a kind review. I console myself with the flick's poster: the funniest thing I've seen in some time. Walker reproduced with exactly the same expression as his canine co-stars is almost worth the movie.

A question though, thrown out there out of flabbergasting ignorance before I write the review proper: is there a temperature so cold that beyond which breath no longer mists? I'm serious. This film has made me measurably stupider.

67 comments:

Alex Jackson said...

Haven't read the book, but I'm working on writing a piece on The Godfather and it's generally well-accepted that the film is better than the book.

Not a big fan of Carrie, but King's novel is a real piece of shit. Ditto for the recent Secret Window. Why they made Secret Window into a movie is beyond me, but the film is pretty decent.

Controversial? The film version of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird doesn't exactly get past Lee's "hug a nigger, don't lynch them" paternalism or the tardsploitation or the awful ending. But the score and the photography and the performances, they all suggest that it was particularly well-suited for adaptation to the screen. The film is a major guilty pleasure, but a pleasure all the same.

I've actually reviewed Possessed. Hope that I did it justice. I'll be watching and reviewing Mildred Pierce in the coming weeks.

Jack_Sommersby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jack_Sommersby said...

Walter,

I've read Jaws, and, yeah, it's a pretty bad novel. What really cracks me up is that Benchley chided Spielberg for changing the ending to his book: in the book, Chief Brody kills the shark by stabbing it repeatedly with this sharp-ended rod; in the film, it's killed by Brody exploding that air tank in its mouth with a rifle. Benchley said the audience would laugh Spielberg's ending off the screen, yet it still remains one of the most crowd-pleasing demises to a screen villain in screen history ("Smile you son of a bi.....!" -- explode!). Have quite an affectation for Benchley's The Island, though; and while the film adaptation (with Michael Caine stalwart as the hero, reporter Blair Maynard) lacks the visceral intensity of its source, it's still grandly entertaining and one of the few films I'm still hoping for a letterboxed DVD release in light of it having been shot in 2.35:1. Benchley was a doodle, I tell ya. Who else whould dare name one of their heroes "Whip Darling", after all? Glad the LAN player is treating you well -- it worked wonders in capturing 10 different screenshots of Lolita in full-frontal buff in Broken Flowers!

Alex,

Puzo has stated many times that he knew his novel was trash, that he just churned it out the way it was to cash in on its commercial possibilities.

On the screen capture, I've seen it. Part of some kind of dream sequence, I believe. But after a couple of pulls off the vodka bottle I still can't discren the title. Almost, but not quite.

Chris said...

Screen capture: Dark Water?

Erin said...

well, there's always Greencine.

Anonymous said...

Great review of FD3 and the X-Files Mythology sets, and I have no idea of the cap. Familiar, but no idea - closest I can guess is In Dreams, which is almost certainly wrong.

What are the odds you'll see Nochnoi Dozor (Night Watch) next week? For anyone interested, Apple's got an intriguing feature alongside the trailer for this Russian flick featuring the entire film run in fast motion, slowing down to normal speed for some of the most memorable scenes in the movie, which I found to be a complete embarrassment and ridiculously boring. At the very least, this done-quick featurette is much, much shorter, and lacks the kinda-nifty, mostly-annoying-as-hell emotive subtitles.

Ian Pugh said...

Screencap is Von Trier's The Element of Crime.

James Allen said...

I read the book "Jaws" after I saw the film, and yeah, it's not exactly the best written novel in the world... medium grade pulp I guess you could call it. It's also not surprising that the first screenplay adaptation (done by Benchley) was rejected, apparently he included all this superfluous sidebar stuff (like the affair and a corrupt mayor's office) that was eventually stripped away by Gottlieb, Millius, Speilberg, et al.

He did have a point about the ending being ludicrous, but (and Benchley admitted this himself) in context Speilberg made it work, the tension was ratcheted so high that the final gunshot was a spectacular release. (Sure, the "Mythbusters" guys showed that shooting on oxygen tank doesn't make it explode, but who cares?)

James Allen said...

Re: Netflix

Can't say I'm surprised at this revelation. I was talking to a friend about the service when we first saw a commercial for it on TV, and we were wondering at what point do they start losing money on a customer. My friend kiddingly said they'd have to start slowing down the shipments by sending them by tenth class mail delivered by a turtle with a bad leg. I can't say he was too far off.

The odd part is, this might make the more frequent users drop the service, which seems to be what Netflix wants. But in any case, it appears the jig is up, and unless they seriously revise their business approach, they'll be gone in a couple years, replaced by whatever the next movie delivery business model will be.

Ian Pugh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ian Pugh said...

Ha ha, sorry about the brusque post. Knew this cap for sure -- or did I? -- and I wanted to get it in as soon as I could. Been having bad luck with 'em lately -- check out my borderline insane guesses for Return to Witch Mountain. These screencap wins are really more about bragging rights for yours truly, but be warned, Bill. I'll get that copy of Class of 1984... somehow.

At any rate, The Element of Crime is a pretty good picture; not really immersed in the powerful, caustic acid of von Trier's later work but a dingy, agreeably effed-up commentary on policework -- where a cop tries to find a child killer named Harry Grey utilizing the titular book from his mentor. Of course, believing that there is an all-encompassing element of crime leads the cop to perform some really simple-minded tactics. Example: In following the killer's footsteps, he dons a hat emblazoned "HG" to get a better feel for the quarry. Maddening. By the way, the whole film is immersed in that same lifeless beige, and it is truly unnerving.

Alex -- I actually remember The Godfather being a pretty good read, but perhaps that goes along with knowing the film so intimately. There's a certain passage that will always stick in my mind: "From the moment the men stepped out of the car, Sonny Corleone knew that he was dead." Not sure why; maybe because it just speaks so well for the whole "borrowed time" concept of the mob. That being said, Coppola and Puzo definitely knew what to chop out of the book (and save for later) -- most of undertaker Bonasera's plight was excised, and it's the better film for it.

By the way, speaking of the ending of Jaws -- not to spiral into a tangent here -- I'm reminded of a sketch from Seth Green's bizarro stop-motion Adult Swim show Robot Chicken, where Spielberg Lucasizes Jaws to include "great" new special effects of the shark. Of course, the jokes contained therein are typically out of left field (the shark runs around on land wielding two chainsaws; the shark throws a harpoon back at the boat, screaming "ya missed me, ya dried up douchebags!"), but there's also a brilliant bit near the end which, I think, truly understands what's wrong with the trend of updating classic movies for new audiences. Brody actually gets to complete his famous "smile you son of a bitch" -- and there's a momentary pause of awkwardness before he finally destroys the shark. Probably the subtlest thing about the sketch, but the highlight for me.

And as for Netflix -- don't really know what to say on that front. I kind of need the service at the moment, but this certainly explains a few things. I'll echo James' thoughts; they'd better watch themselves from now on or else they're in for trouble. We're all glad that they cut Blockbuster down to size, but have they just replaced one monopoly with another?

Seattle Jeff said...

Walter,

Was outraged by the Netflix story too, but got some perspective from Hacking Netflix

Scroll down to "Comments on the Netlix Throttling Story"

Chad Evan said...

One of my pet peeves is when people who supposedly love cinema say "It's that rare thing--a movie better than the book!"

Rare my ass. Someone once said that it's easier to make a great film out of a shitty book than a great book, and that may be true, but John Ford's Grapes of Wrath blows Steinbeck's out of the water--Ford's direction is so much more eloquent than Steinbeck's prose. Something about the screen hid Steinbeck's limitations--the original Of Mice and Men is also better than the book.

The novel Fat City is absolutely nothing special, but I love the film.

As Alex noted, the Godfather is much better on the screen than on the page, as is Carrie (and even It.)

Seattle Jeff said...

Speaking of books made into movies, I was recently in a MySPace thread where the topic came up.

It was a group of book lovers. For example, I posted about Vonnegut books made into films.

One woman talked about how she loved the movie "Single White Female" but didn't like the book as much. Unless I'm mistaken, it Seemed she was under the impression thta we were discussing the movies in comparison to the supermarket paperback that came out later.

As for me, I liked the book of "Star Wars Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" way more than the film of the same name.

Seattle Jeff said...

Chad,

Ford's "Grapes of Wrath" blows Steinbeck's out of the water?

I'm thinking that's a bit of an overstatement.

Maybe you don't think much of Steinbeck, but you have to take into account the fact that the story of "The Grapes of Wrath" was created by Steinbeck. Originating something that EPIC counts for something. The creative process is just a tad more arduous than the "adapting process".

Ford did a great job. No doubt. Is not Henry Fonda perfect casting? You can't read the book without hearing Fonda as Tom Joad. But nothing in the film tops the ending of the book.

Alex Jackson said...

I signed up for the Netflix settlement by the way. We've had a pretty good experience. It used to take two days to send them back, now it only takes one day. We're at five at a time anyway, and so I can give them a little slack in that arena anyway.

I've had DVDs lost in the mail and others broken into two pieces. All times, Netflix has made it as
painless as possible. They have very good selection too, Junebug and Oliver Twist have waits but I have a whole lot of other stuff that I'd like to see instead.

My wife loves television also, and it's not at all feasible to watch TV on DVD through any conventional video rental chain. There's no way that they can stock every season of every TV show that is out on the format.

I'm too much of a utilitarian to get pissed at them on principal; but still if there really is a better company out there for my needs I'm all ears.

Nate said...

I pretty much agree with Alex on this Netflix issue - typical corporate bullshit, but I'm not closing my account because frankly this is my only affordable access to foreign and independent films.

Dave Gibson said...

RE: Movies that are better than the Book

Movies and books are such different beasts; I find it difficult to make the call unless the source material was essentially designed for an eventual film sale. Most of the Michael Crichton films are less painful than M.C.s turgid prose. (Though the films inevitably lack the geeky details that makes crap like Rising Sun modestly entertaining.) Blade Runner, for instance, is profoundly and fundamentally different than the Dick story—but, both are brilliant—and ultimately, the film affected me more profoundly. What the hell, it’s a parlour game, so here are my picks—in each case, I believe the film was inherently better than the book:

1. Carrie
2. The Dead Zone
3. The Bridges of Madison County
4. Ordinary People
5. Rosemary’s Baby
6. The Exorcist
7. Don’t Look Now (Tough Call)
8. GoodFellas (WiseGuy)

James Allen said...

I've been reading some of the comments about Netflix here and elsewhere...

I don't have an account myself, but it does seem Netflix is a very reasonable service. I guess they have to have a more up front policy about heavy usage (i.e. "throttling," an extremely unfortunate coined term; it paints a rather gruesome picture doesn't it?) I know it's buried in the terms of service, but I think in the future they have to be a little more up front than that.

But that of course doesn't mean consumers shouldn't be vigilant in reading the fine print (before they start getting lawyers involved.) Buyer beware, after all.

Seattle Jeff said...

Anyone think the film "Mother Night" was better than the book?

James Allen said...

Dave Gibson mused:

[List of films he considers superior to their literary source]

1. Carrie
2. The Dead Zone


I agree. While we're on Stephen King, I would add Stand by Me ("The Body")

3. The Bridges of Madison County
4. Ordinary People
5. Rosemary’s Baby
6. The Exorcist
7. Don’t Look Now (Tough Call)
8. GoodFellas (WiseGuy)


Interesting choices. I read "The Exorcist" so long ago I barely remember if I thouht it was good or not. I definitely agree with 4 and 8.

I would add Planet of the Apes (aka "Monkey Planet")

Walter_Chaw said...

Hey - on the run today, but wanted to stop by to confirm's Ian's screenshot guess. Von Trier's interesting, sometimes-inspired The Element of Crime.

Seattle Jeff said...

I heard Von Trier was slated to direct "Big Momma 3".

..but I heard that from Steven Colbert.

James Allen said...

I heard Von Trier was slated to direct "Big Momma 3".

..but I heard that from Steven Colbert.


"Jump down, turn around, pick a bale of truth."

I love "The Colbert Report," (I've been a fan of Colbert since he was on "The Daily Show" with its original host, Craig Kilborn), his commitment to his pompous O'Reilly-eque character is perfect.

Harvey_Birdman said...

I nominate "2001" and "Die Hard" as films which are better than the novels.

"A Clockwork Orange" could go either way. I have never liked the novel's epilogue and am glad it was entirely omitted in the film.

Anonymous said...

Salon has a podcast of a long interview with Colbert here. He is a satirical giant.

And Jaws truly, truly sucked as a novel. But a lot of the books that make it into movies are just pulp to begin with, and not always good pulp. As in commercial films, the concept -- giant shark threatens beachfront community! -- is what gets the book sold, and the concept is what the films tap into.

Seattle Jeff said...

The old Bravo series "Significant Others" is out on DVD.

I highly, highly, highly, recommend it. One of the funniest shows I've ever seen.

Read about it here

dave said...


1. Carrie
2. The Dead Zone

I agree. While we're on Stephen King, I would add Stand by Me ("The Body")


I also agree and would add The Shining. As for Blade Runner, I think the movie is much superior to the short story, though one must say that it is only very loosely based on it. BTW, I'm terribly afraid of what Linklater will do with Scanner Darkly, which in my opinion is among the very best Dick has written. I mean, Keanu is in it, so I'm expecting the worst.

I'm somehow tempted to mention Solaris - I wouldn't dare to say that the movie is superior, but the movie adds some interesting ideas and story elements which I really missed when I reread the book recently. Lem is dealing with this planet so much that he nearly forgets the people on the space station.

Anonymous said...

The Manchurian Candidate worked better as a film than as a novel

Alex Jackson said...

Book and movie of Blade Runner really are apples and oranges. The book was certainly more ambitious and it was a real eye opener for me, I had never read anything quite like that; but how can you say a bad word about Blade Runner?

Wise Guy is OK. Goodfellas is better I guess, but I'm not really interested in pushing it. Wise Guy didn't really do anything wrong.

Oh I loved the movie L.A. Confidential, but the book was too dense for me. I have the feeling that if I put the energy into it I would probably really like it, more than the movie which I think might be a little too cute relatively speaking, but it's kind of a cerebral book. Another startling thing for me is that Elroy uses the word nigger and it's not in the context of the characters saying, he, the omnipotent narrator is saying it. That was a "wow" moment for me. Unspoken rules were being broken.

I'm really a bad bad reader. I have standards but it's way too easy for me to put the book down if it's too hard to read. I hated Carrie but I read the whole damn thing on the john. It took me months to read LA Confidential.

James Allen said...

Anonymous wrote:

But a lot of the books that make it into movies are just pulp to begin with, and not always good pulp. As in commercial films, the concept -- giant shark threatens beachfront community! -- is what gets the book sold, and the concept is what the films tap into.

Very true. I'm sure tons of books have been optioned based solely on their outlines. Of course these days, with big name authors, they are probably optioned before a word is even written!

I'm sure a lot of old noir films can fall into this category, but I doubt many people could get ahold of (let alone read) any of the books some of those films were based on.

Alex Jackson said...

As in commercial films, the concept -- giant shark threatens beachfront community! -- is what gets the book sold, and the concept is what the films tap into.

Yeah, I think that's why King sells so many books and why auteurs are so attracted to adapting his work. Killer cell phones aside, he's a fucking genius at coming up with high concepts.

Walter_Chaw said...

2001's source material is a short story called "The Sentinel" - there was such an avalanche of curiosity about its ending (the film's) that Clarke wrote a novelization of it himself, post-release. His sequels (2010, 2060, 3001), none of which have a movie-mate, are accordingly increasingly without mystery or necessity. Clarke's one of the proto-"Hard"-sci-fi writers - but I always liked him best when he went after spirituality.

Bill C said...

Gotta second Die Hard. Roderick Thorpe's a pretty pitiful writer.

I was really disappointed by "A Simple Plan" but loved the film made from it. Oddly, the novelist and screenwriter were one and the same, though I suspect Billy Bob Thornton took an uncredited pass at the script. The book is heartless and the movie aches with feeling.

Almost all the highbrow Stephen King adaptations are superior to their source, but they really screwed the pooch on "Hearts in Atlantis", which should've been a 6-part HBO event.

Bill C said...

Actually, Walt, "2010" has a movie mate. It's just that nobody wants to remember it.

I actually just read a piece on 2010 from a book on Sci-Fi Filmmaking in the '80s, and they recount a story about hiring Peter Hyams to direct it. Frank Yablans tells the studio chief, "You want Hyams to follow in Kubrick's footsteps? His work is so wooden." To which the studio chief replies, "Yeah, but he can get it out by Christmas."

Jefferson said...

... I liked 2010.

zurri said...

I'd commend Jun Ichikawa's adaptation of Haruki Murakami's "Tony Takitani".
Please put this film on your queue's-- it's definetly worth it.

Link to the translated short story:
http://wis.cs.ucla.edu/~hxwang/newyorker/blog/files/tonytakitani.html

Ian Pugh said...

Speaking of King, is there a major horror director who hasn't worked with King at one point or another? (Beyond, I suppose, guys like Argento who essentially never direct what they don't write.) Romero's Creepshow, Carpenter's Christine, Hooper's Salem's Lot and The Mangler, hell, even Larry Cohen utilized a sequel to Salem's Lot. Now there's your benchmark of prolificacy.

zurri said...

Regarding Netflix:

I've gone to the dark side and used Blockbuster Online --I'm not sure if they are practicing throttling but i'm sure they have some sort of malice.

The one thing i like about blockbuster online is the added bonus of getting 4 free in store rentals-- This is a big advantage to Netflix imho.

So i use the online service for excellent fare such as the hard to rent Millenium Mambo and Lumiere & Company -- and i give the free instore rentals to my girlfriend. Thus ingeniously i dont actually spend any rentals on "the notebook" and bad j-horror and its clones.

James Allen said...

Re: 2010

2010 was OK I guess, competently acted, directed in a workman like fashion by Hymans, about the nicest thing I could say is that it passed the time; unfortunately it suffered from complete pointlessness. Today, it additionally suffers from being extremely dated (like many films involing US/USSR cold war machinations.)

Walter_Chaw said...

Isn't 2010 different from 2010? Ah hell, maybe not. This brain tumor's getting huuuge.

Bill C said...

They're indeed one and the same. I doubt Hyams could've come up with even that shaky concept by himself.

Jack_Sommersby said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jack_Sommersby said...

Bill,

We're in opposite camps on A Simple Plan: I love the book but detest the watered-down film version. In the book, Hank is inititally presented as a decent man, only for us to discover that the money brings out a dark, dark side in him that envelops him and never lets go. In the book, he cold-bloodedly shoots the wife to cover himself; in the film, he only shoots her because she's shooting at him. In the book, Jacob doesn't beg Hank to kill him -- Jacob tries shooting Hank, he discovers the gun's empty, smiles at Hank to let it go, and Hank blows him away; in the film, 'ol Jacob's begging and 'ol Hank's in tears over shooting him -- puuuuuulease! What's also left out of the film is Hank's growing bloodlust from the killings -- remember his hacking away at that conveneince-store clerk with the machete? Nah, the film, while well-acted, is a major cop-out and something I pretty much resent the living hell out of.

As for 2010, for fans of the film like myself, beware that the DVD, contrary to what the back of the cover reads, is not enhanced for widescreen TVs. Having a non-anamorphic transfer of this film available is pathetic.

Bill C said...

I think for me it comes down to Jacob's car monologue, Jack. Hank asks him why he wants the money and he says he wants it because he wants to buy the family home, which will make him feel "normal"--a subversive thing for a character to want in a film ostensibly about the condemnation of greed. I felt like the book ultimately preached to the converted (money corrupts, etc.), whereas the film wasn't all about the cathartic bait-and-switch. I do sort of admire Jacob's fate in the book, but only for its taboo, Michael/Fredo aspects. His martyrdom in the movie just destroys me, where the book portrays him as a fat, greedy slob who mostly gets what's coming to him.

On a purely superficial level, I also liked the extra layer of tension that performance brought to the scene where Hank and Jacob try to swindle Lou. It curiously allows for a much more subjective reading of Jacob's motives because of the sincerity with which Billy Bob Thornton delivers his Hank-baiting impersonation of Bill Paxton.

Bemis said...

2010 is a competently made film with some decent performances and effects, and yet every time I think about it, I get pretty angry. It's partly because 2001 is my favorite movie, but also because 2010 to me is the best (worst?) example of "I don't get it"-ism.

Anonymous said...

The book Forrest Gump is not very good.

Carl said...

Also wanted to chime in and defend Netflix. I admit that I am not as objective here, because I am apparently at just the right point, watching 8-12 discs per month. I've never been throttled (lately, it's always a day to get here and a day to get back), and I've always gotten what I consider a good value (lower per-DVD-price than I'd pay at any store).

Furthermore, without Netflix, how would I watch all these great but little-known films that Walter, Alex, or whomever else recommends? Unfortunately, I don't get to go to screenings (or even have the possibility to see most of what's good where I live), so I can't afford to turn my nose up. I'm trying to work through Walter's top 10 list and I can't even get Best of Youth or Forty Shades of Blue at any store I know of, but they are near the top of my Netflix queue. And even watching what I could at the store would become far too expensive. Before Netflix, I scarcely rented a movie once a month.

Perhaps to rehabiliate themselves, Netflix should just concede that "unlimited" rentals for everyone is unworkable and start a new, extra charge for "heavy renters" rather than spiting them with films they want less, and unecessary wait times. Maybe they have decided there's no good way to accomodate those customers, but that's a shame.

Btw Blockbuster Online sucks. They didn't have half of the Wong Kar-Wai films, they sent me a different film entitled Head-On (from 1998) three times in a row, and half the time they just sent me the fourth disc in my queue even though 1-3 said "Available Now." Seems like they might even be more throttle-happy, and certainly more incompetent.

Jack_Sommersby said...

I don't really see where 2001 is any more "I got it" than 2010 is "I don't got it". Both aren't particularly literal-minded -- they live and breathe with their makers' willingness not to spell anything out. But look at the characters and story: I found tension and immediacy to the story of 2010, and also an affectation for their characters (Roy Scheider, Helen Mirren, and John Lithgow are doing first-rate work here, folks); whereas in 2001 the characters are mere ciphers and the emphasis on the technicalogical aspects of the film overhwhelm the characters base -- which is a standard among Kubrick's post-Dr. Strangelove works). Will proudly recommend Hyams' over Kubrick's any day of the week.

Bill,

Would I have liked A Simple Plan better if I hadn't read the book? Maybe. Maybe not. I just saw too much of an attempt to soften the Hank character and give him excuses to commit most of his heinous acts to retain audience sympathy. The book's "money corrupts" may be nothing new, but I thought Smith delved into it with a galvanizing, uncompromising intensity that left me disturbed for days afterward.

Chad Evan said...

Zurri:
I didn't want to speak up for fear of getting lynched, but yeah, I switched to Blockbuster,too. Watch out: they do indeed throttle, and if you keep up the pace you're at, I'd say you're in for it in the near future.

Jeff:
I felt bad about that Steinbeck thing as soon as I wrote it. The Grapes of Wrath IS epic, and a work of towering ambition: trouble is, I just don't think Steinbeck had the genius to pull it off. Part of my problem with him is doubtless the result of the zealotry of the reformed sinner; as a knee-jerk liberal high schooler I claimed him as my favorite writer even though the only work of his that really affected me emotionally was Of Mice and Men--bawled like a baby at the end of that one. I thought I should like him because he was pro-union etcetera, but Grapes and In Dubious Battle (which I find more richly ambivalent than Grapes)failed to move me. By the time I'd read Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat and, most of all, East of Eden, his botched attempt at a self-conscious masterpiece, I had to accept that he just didn't do it for me--and since then I've stopped trying to like books just because I agree with them politically anyway. By the by, what's your opinion on Steinbeck's Eden vs. Kazan's? Never seen the movie, but I have a history of liking cinematic adaptations of Steinbeck.

Everyone:
Ok, I'm embarrassed, but could someone explain to me just what the hell happens at the end of 2001? I think it's supposed to be the rebirth into the next stage of humanity's evolution or some such, but could anyone explain it a little more in-depth?

Alex Jackson said...

Yes.

Rebirth. Next stage of humanity's evolution. From ape to man to angel. Or perhaps more accurately from larvae to pupa to butterfly. Man has left the animal age, left the machine age, and has become spiritual being.

Essential in understanding the rest of Kubrick's films.

Rich said...

As a Canadian, I subscribe to the Netflix equivalent up here: Zip.ca. Zip recently made a change to all of the 'unlimited' rental plans by adding an upper limit (as Carl suggested Netflix do) to the number of rentals per month. Exceeding this incurs a charge of a few bucks per disc. Seems like Netflix wants it both ways: they want the advantages of calling their services 'unlimited' while limiting them. Sounds a bit dodgy.

Luckily (or unluckily, I guess), these upper limits won't be affecting me since Canada Post sees to it that it takes 4 days each way for my DVDs to travel the 60 KM to and from the warehouse, keeping me effectively throttled. I'm on a 4 DVD plan and even while watching/shipping the DVDs the same day as received I can only manage about 10-11 per month.

I can complain, but ultimately this is just about the only way I can rent anything remotely obscure and off the mainstream track. Despite living in an urban area (just North of Toronto literally surrounded by large towns), the selection at video rental stores is just pathetic.

Perhaps this online video 'revolution' will spark a change, though. Despite renting through the mail being cheap, I still remain at the will of the Zip.ca computers - watching what they decide to send me when they send it.

Scott Weinberg said...

Whenever I hear "movie is better than the book," I think of two words:

American. Psycho.

Bill C said...

I'm probably contradicting myself, but I vastly preferred the novel "American Psycho" to the film version, which I saw again not too long ago and found incredibly limp. Bale's great, but Harron and Turner make it all too palatable. I mean, the only reason to adapt it is to be the asshole who adapted "American Psycho", otherwise what's the point? Also, the production being denied the right to mention brand names completely defeats the purpose of all those ritualistic scenes of Paul Bateman primping himself. The point of them is not that he uses exfoliate, after all, but that he uses the best exfoliate, and probably wouldn't bother if there wasn't such a thing. "Expensive sports car" just doesn't drive the point home the way "Porsche" does.

Scott Weinberg said...

Good points, Bill. I tried numerous times to read AP straight through, but the thing only seems to work in isolated bits for me. The flick, on the other hand, gets better each time I see it.

Alex Jackson said...

No, with American Psycho the book is better. I'm not sure that I would have liked the film to the extent that I did (which wasn't a lot) had I not read the book. The book lends it some heat. Bill is exactly right: no racism, no sexual violence, no product placements. What's the point? Not only did they omit the rat scene and the head scene, but they omitted the urinal cake scene! That sensitive to misogyny that they couldn't even include the blasted urinal cake scene?!

Two things I do want to mention though, Oliver Stone who was once slated to direct the film, did American Psycho better than even Bret Easton Ellis did when he made Wall Street. Also, this should have been the image-shedding breakthrough role for Mark-Paul Gosselaar.

Seattle Jeff said...

Chad:

We differ in our appreciation of Steinbeck, though I admit you may have read more of his stuff than me.

I prefer the book of East of Eden to the Kazan film. (It should be noted I'm a big Kazan fan.)

I didn't think the film captured the scope of the book and cut one of my favorite characters (Lee).

Dave Gibson said...

I’m fascinated by the variety of responses to American Psycho. While neither the film nor the book can be ignored, both revel in the materialism and cold vacuity of Bateman to the point of abject tedium (I.e.: the seemingly endless laundry lists of Bateman’s material goods in the book). This is partly Ellis’s intention I suppose, but as far as the book is concerned, it’s mostly artless. “Master of the Universe as Serial Killer” is a fairly obvious (and dated concept) that I never saw as particularly dangerous when either the book or the film came out. As a modestly engaging skewer of eighties materialism, the film is mildly interesting-- as for the book, while not pornographic, it does share porn’s most enduring trait: It’s Booooorrrring. Mary Harron’s feminist version of the material partly enlivens Ellis’s dull prose by satirizing it (an actual film satire of a book with tenuous claims to be satire) rather than offering it up seriously—but, honestly, an episode of “The Apprentice” does all of this so much better.

George Nada said...

His sequels (2010, 2060, 3001), none of which have a movie-mate.

As pointed out 2010 does have a movie mate. They're not so much different as stuff in the book is left out of the movie (which is always the case). It wasn't just Russia vs America in the book, but the Chinese were also involved and are actually the first exploration to reach Europa (I love that passage). In the movie the Russia vs America aspect is far to influenced by the times it was made, where as in the book it was just a natural progression of where these two super powers would go.

I've got to say I'm a fan of the movie though, although the book is much better. In the book the end message from the aliens is much more ominous, there's no "use them in peace" bollocks. They just basically tell Earth to sort it out and to stay the hell of Europa. I think all the Space Odyssey books are class (although I agree Walter that Clarke is more interesting when he goes after spirituality), I especially love how in 3001 are character from the first movie/book who anyone would've thought was well gone actually becomes our protagonist!

I think it's also worth pointing out that the 2001 companion piece book makes you realise how respectful Kubrick was to his audience in figuring it out for themselves. Everything in the book is in the movie, but he just didn't use the literal words for it to make sense and showed it purely through imagery.

Alex Jackson said...

As a modestly engaging skewer of eighties materialism, the film is mildly interesting-- as for the book, while not pornographic, it does share porn’s most enduring trait: It’s Booooorrrring.

Bah, you're just not reading the right pornos. ;)

Vikram said...

Movies based on Michael Crichton's books are generally not very good - but his novels are worse.

I understand that they aren't written with any idea of being 'literary' but they are surprisingly illiterate and terrible. It's amazing, actually, how popular his books are and it's also amazing that a dude as arrogant as Crichton who thinks of himself as so smart can write so poorly. Maybe it's not so amazing, come to think.

Bemis said...

I don't really see where 2001 is any more "I got it" than 2010 is "I don't got it". Both aren't particularly literal-minded -- they live and breathe with their makers' willingness not to spell anything out.

I feel like we didn't see the same movie; 2010 articulates the specific reasons for HAL's actions in the first film, for instance. And the aliens' message is literally spelled out on the screen.

Jefferson said...

I thought HAL got a nice redemption at the end of 2010 ... and he got to go where Bowman had gone. It was a grace note for a character who happened, despite being a machine, to be the most relatable in all of 2001.

I will never argue, however, that anyone who's seen 2001 MUST see 2010 to have a complete film experience. I just watched Wings of Desire, for instance, and have no plan to revisit Faraway, So Close. It's a bookend that just wasn't needed.

Walter: I don't know if breath stops misting at very cold temperatures, but I do know there is a point where it will start freezing in your beard and not creating much of a plume. I have been outdoors in such weather, and it hurts. Jack London's "To Build a Fire" has a neat bit where the protagonist spits, and hears his saliva hit the snow with a sound like a small crystal. But he could have been exaggerating for effect.

zurri said...

Ok i've got one:

A movie that is equally as powerful as the book:

Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky and Hubert Selby)

Everytime i think of Sara Goldfarb i start to get a lump in my throat

Seattle Jeff said...

I don't think London was exaggerating.

I spent a couple of winters in Mongolia, just south of Siberia.

Let me just say, vomit froze rather quickly outside. And your nose hairs would instantly ice up.I loved it.

Jefferson said...

Too much fermented yak's milk?

Seattle Jeff said...

Totally.

...and vodka.