Thursday, August 30, 2007

Big in CZ

I don't know how the heck this happened, but apparently the folks at a movie listing site in the Czech Republic really like messing with cast lists. On their page for Super Mario Brothers, I've somehow made it to the top, showing up right behind Lance Henriksen.

After the hell that film put me through, this was a nice surprise.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Disorder of the Phoenix

I have to confess that until just a few weeks ago, I had only gotten as far as the fourth book in the Harry Potter series. My wife and eldest son, however, have long since finished the entire collection, including the seventh, The Deathly Hallows. So, since the latest movie, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, is based on the fifth book, I decided I'd better get cracking.

In the case of screen adaptations, personally, I prefer seeing the movie only after first reading the book. A few days back and forth to work on the bus, and I was done. I thought the story was much stronger than the previous four books, leaving me ready to see a very exciting movie.

Now, for the most part, the Harry Potter films have failed to disappoint me in their adherence to the structure of the books. And I'd hoped that this latest film would be no different. Although I also realized that there is a lot going on in the fifth book and the film would probably need to be a bit longer than the rest to fit it all in, my hope for a faithful adaptation was riding high.

Ah, the word adaptation...adapt..."to make something suitable for a new use or purpose; modify"


Yeah, they certainly did that alright. They adapted the crap out of it. I don't know what the deal was with the filmmakers wanting to shave down the longest book in the series to make the shortest film of the series. I would've gladly sat through thirty more minutes if it meant a more faithful rendition.

The worst part about this hack job was that, in the interest of brevity, a number of key things were either left out or altogether changed. For instance: (WARNING: MAJOR BOOK & FILM SPOILERS BELOW!)

1. Quidditch. There wasn't any. None! No one even mentioned it. Who the hell wants to see a Harry Potter film with no quidditch? In the book, Ron joins the team (and is horrible), Ginny joins the team (and is pretty good), and Harry gets banned for life from playing.

2. Cho. Yeah, she's Harry's love interest, but she's no snitch. At least not in the book.

3. Baby-Headed Death Eater. This scene was so freaking bizarre in the book and it's a shame it's not in the film. I really hope it shows up as a deleted scene on the DVD.

4. St. Mungo's. Personally, I thought the gang running into Neville and his parents in St. Mungo's (in the book) was much more powerful than Neville calmly saying to Harry, "You know, Voldemort screwed up my parents. 'Preciate it if you didn't mention it." And Kenneth Branagh could've had a great cameo.

5. Battles. Dumbledore kicks ass in his office. The kids put the beat down on the Death Eaters in the Ministry. And Harry goes nuts in Dumbledore's office like a rock star in a hotel room. Too bad none of it made it into the film.

Overall, the movie felt disjointed and the scenes seemed to be connected only by the editor's hand. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't horrible. It just could've been so much better with a little more screen time.

This raises a fundamental question in screenwriting and adaptations. Does the screenplay owe anything to the original material? Not a lick. It's an adaptation. A modification of the original work. So it's okay to take a few liberties. But this is an insanely popular story franchise we're talking about, so it's gotta be just right. The first few movies nailed it. This one should've, too.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Syd Field Podcast

Actually, it's not so much a podcast as it is a short series of short conversations with Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine) about the writing process, character development, plot turning points, and other interesting tidbits. These videos feature clips from Little Miss Sunshine and are quite insightful, mainly because Arndt speaks candidly about getting the script read, sold and being fired from the project (and subsequently rehired).

I'm not a huge fan of Syd, but I do wish he'd make some more of these.

Click here to grab the videos from iTunes.

Unfortunately, I've only been able to find it in iTunes. (There's also an audio version for all you nanos and shuffles out there.)

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Kill Your Television!

I just can't turn it on anymore. Someone else in my house has to do it. It's usually the children or my wife. This works out logically since the cat is unable to push the button.

But I personally can't turn on my TV. Why?


No, I'm not being existential or esoteric. Reality on TV is sucking all the joy out of watching it. I remember a time when primetime meant great stories, action packed drama; even the mindless sitcom or two was entertaining. But now, flipping the switch gets me any of the following:

Game shows
These have just gotten ridiculous. I'm not talking about the "put a bunch of people in a house and the last one there gets the money" game shows (that's another category)...I'm talking about real game shows, on a stage in front of an audience with lots of flashing lights. And these aren't anything like the ones from back in the day, like Match Game or Hollywood Squares or the all-time boss of all game shows, Jeopardy. Here's the basic premise: Let's put an incredibly greedy/annoying/spastic moron on stage and put them through the emotional ringer while we raise the jackpot (and the stakes), making said moron convulse in fits of emotional agony. I think that sums up most of them.

(Un)Social Game Shows
Box up a bunch of people together with the same goal (i.e. to be hired/married/funny/thin/beautiful/whatever) and sit back and watch them fight over it. Survivor started this one and every incarnation of the basic idea gets more and more insipid.

Talent Shows
America's Idol Got Talent. If I wanted to watch a talent show, I'd visit my local junior high school.

Real Life Shows
Every goober with a camera phone, right there on my TV. People falling over the dog, the Christmas tree falling on grandma, grandma falling on the baby...

Let me know when the second season of Heroes starts. Until then, I'll be reading a book.