aparrish: (Default)
While our Thanksgiving lasagna was cooking, S and I watched Big for a while (on We's "Hanksgiving"), trying to determine which portions were actually filmed at Playland. We ate together with S's mother, who made apple walnut salad and a loaf of bread.

My brother, bored at Thanksgiving dinner back in Utah, asked me via text message what I had for dinner. He relayed my response to my grandmother, who (according to the account that my mother and father gave me later) was heard to remark, "Lasagna? Well maybe they don't celebrate Thanksgiving."

Who "they" is in this sentence baffles me. Does Grandma persist in believing that S is Jewish? Is it Jews who don't celebrate thanksgiving? Is it Koreans? Is it Godless New York Heathen? I'm befuddled. We were celebrating Thanksgiving - good food with friends and family. That's all you need for Thanksgiving. Plus we had pumpkin pie for dessert, so as far as I'm concerned our meal's status as thanksgiving-worthy is unimpeachable. It's not as if the Pilgrims would have cancelled the first Thanksgiving for want of a turkey.

On Saturday S and I saw Walk The Line, the new Johnny Cash biopic. The film suffers from the same flaw as Goblet of Fire - it isn't so much a coherent film as it is a faithful rehash of the source material. Instead of telling the story of Cash's life, it reproduces the scenes. Instead of insight into Cash as a person we get throwaway cameos (John, have you met ... Elvis Presley? and What do you think ... Waylon Jennings?) and specific details without any follow-up - e.g., why did they take so much time to show Carter giving Cash The Prophet and never bother to mention it again? Do we really need to know that Cash wrote a letter to Bob Dylan on an airplane sickbag?

Because the scenes are so disconnected, much of the story was told, not shown, using As You Know, Bob-type dialogue: "I just went through a difficult divorce, John" says June Carter when Cash tries to kiss her on tour; "You leave for your tour tomorrow," says Cash's wife while they're arguing about Cash's home life. This is probably inevitable for a movie with so much ground to cover, but it's distracting nonetheless.

The film does succeed, however, in expressing the intensity of the man and his music - the stomping, the bass drum, the hollering in opening scene at Folsom Prison shake the dust from what always seemed to me pretty staid material. I recommend the film on this intensity and the intensity of the acting - Joaquin Phoenix sells himself as Cash and Reese Witherspoon is particularly charismatic as June Carter (although her voice sounds nothing like the real June Carter's, alas).
aparrish: (Default)
Josh,

> So what's the deal with this new Hitchhiker's Guide
> flick? Have you heard anything pro or con?

I saw it last weekend.

I sort of felt like I could reconstruct the board meetings that led to the most egregious violations of the book's integrity - a smartly suited, clueless fuck with a Brooks Bros. tie yammering, yammering: "There should be a love story!" Or, "We really need something in the middle of the film to flesh out the plot and tie up the loose ends!" Or, worse: "Zaphod should be politically relevant! Play him like G.W. Bush!"

So, yes, like any other self-respecting nerd, I left the movie (taking great joy in) noting the flaws of the film. My snide ray was set to kill! How dare they debase this work, this most important monument of my geeky youth? How dare they.

Then I thought about it for a while and calmed down some. How much could I realistically expect? Is there any book that lends itself less readily to the movie format? HHGTTG is really only about 50% narrative by volume, and that narrative isn't exactly MGM material: earth gets destroyed, guy in a bathrobe goes to weird planet, uh, the end. The movie attempts to make a proper "plot" out of this by playing up the role of the Vogons, conventionalizing the Arthur/Trillian love story, sending Zaphod to meet Deep Thought, etc. The whole enterprise is an embarrasing failure, of course, but I can appreciate the fact that it was an effort that had to be made.

On the plus side, a number of the remaining 50% - the Guide entries, what I consider to be the real "meat" of the book - made it into the movie as high class, amusing animation sequences. (Unfortunately these trail off in number as the film progresses.) The filmmakers also brilliantly executed a number of creative and often hilarious visuals: Ford and Arthur as sofas, the Heart of Yarn, and the vertigo-inducing Magrathea (among others). Jim Henson's Creature Shop created the Vogons, so they're spot on, of course.

But the movie felt like a collection of ideas about how to make a movie of HHGTTG, rather than a completely realized film. It was strange: all of the actors' performances, considered on an individual basis, were great - especially Bill Nighy as Slartibartfast (I kind of wish the movie was just Slartibartfast and Arthur talking about Earth for two hours). But the performances didn't cohere. None of it stuck together. Does Bill Nighy even know who Mos Def is?

So I'd say this: go for the pieces, not for the whole. Allow the infidelities to Adams' work to enrage you, and revel in that rage! It's your birthright. But don't forget to enjoy the stuff they got right.

Adam

March 2016

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