Is It Fanfic If It’s a Classic?

This post talks about Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA and Charlotte Bronte’s JANE EYRE.  If you haven’t read both and you don’t want to be spoiled on the endings, then stop reading right now.  (But really.  They’ve both been around for long enough that if you don’t know the ending and worry about spoilerage, I really hope you’re fifteen or younger :-) )

So…  Last night, we watched the 1940 movie of REBECCA, which I’d never seen before.  I was amused to see how clearly I remembered the book — down to most of the dialog.  The first time I read the book was in ninth grade, but I know I re-read it at least twice in high school.  (As an aside, in an interesting mini-documentary after the film, I learned that Hitchcock originally adapted the novel to be very different from the book — he changed the story, created new scenes that emphasized the psychological dimensions of the events, and generally created a derivative work (in the copyright sense) — until David O Selznick told him, “We paid a lot for the book, and we’re going to use it, thank you very much.”)

Some time before I first read REBECCA, I first read JANE EYRE.  (We had to read WUTHERING HEIGHTS in eighth grade, and that set off a spate of Bronte-reading among my friends…)

So how is it that I didn’t realize REBECCA was the same story as JANE EYRE until last night?!?

Young girl, orphaned and alone.  Experienced man, sweeping her off her feet, taking her from obnoxious protector(s).  Spooky haunted house, with areas girl is not supposed to go.  Revelation of existence/nature of crazy (ex-)wife.  Fire destroying house (and naivete, and the old way of doing things, etc.)

I was an English major.  I’m supposed to parse these things in my sleep.  But I don’t remember anyone ever commenting that these stories are THE EXACT SAME STORIES.  I’m sure they did, and I just ignored them.  But wow.  Eyes now opened (and I can see, because, you know, Maxim wasn’t blinded.  Big difference in the stories there 😛 )

::shaking head::

Read More

Sad, Sad Truths

The Hobbit might be the most important book in my life.  It’s the book that introduced me to adult (more or less) fantasy fiction.  It opened the door to The Lord of the Rings.  It made me start my first novel (a horrible fanfic-y tangle of a book, started with my best friend in eighth grade, and the less said about that, the better.)

I recently re-read The Hobbit, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held up.  I laughed at bits of humor (the dwarves’ staged approach to Beorn’s house, for example), and I enjoyed Bilbo’s clever solutions (shutting the dwarves up in the barrels that were destined for Laketown).  The book was a picaresque (well, except for the last few chapters), and those types of episodic adventure stories can be pure candy.

Alas, I wasn’t a fan of the first Hobbit movie.  I thought it was over-long and under-storied, even though it brought in vast swaths of story that had nothing to do with The Hobbit.  At the time that I watched it, I hadn’t read the book in over 20 years, so I assumed that I’d forgotten some of the diversions (but I was wrong — they just weren’t there in Tolkien’s book.)


When The Desolation of Smaug came out, I decided to save my pennies and rent the movie when it was available.  When it became available through Netflix, I wanted to watch other things first, so I waited a few months before getting to Smaug.

And that brings us to last night.

Last night was a perfect night for Hobbit-watching.  We had an open swath of time, with no other commitments.  We had popcorn popped.  We were looking forward to the film.

And that enthusiasm lasted for about 10 minutes.  Where was the funny staged approach of the dwarves to Beorn’s house?  Where were the magical animals who waited on the weary travelers?  Where was the eccentric host who taught vegetarian dining to his guests well before vegetarian was a trend?

Okay, so the movie decided to elide Beorn.  There was a lot of story to be told.  Including a half-hour (I think — maybe it only felt that long) river escape from orcs.  And a dwarf-elf maybe-love story, featuring Kate from Lost (who’d clearly wandered in from another movie, because she sure as hell wasn’t in the book.)  And, and, and…

We turned off the movie when we got to the Master.  I didn’t care about dwarves getting hit with fish.  I really didn’t care about Laketown politics, involving characters I’d never really met.  (It was like George Lucas’s interminable Senate scenes, all over again.)

We actually fast-forwarded to two scenes with Smaug.  Great CGI.  Great voicing, by Mr. Cumberbatch.  Of course, those furnaces and that molten gold and all, those belonged to a different movie.

So, yeah.  With regret, we won’t be watching the last of the Hobbit movies.  I once joked that I wanted to see the Director’s Cut of this one — all nine hours cut down to a two-hour film based on the book.  But I don’t know if I’d even watch that.

Sigh.  I know that movies are different from books.  I understand that changes need to be made, to make things film-able, to capture a traditional screenplay structure, to feed the movie-making beast.  But those challenges are different from writing an entirely different film, from creating a fanfic movie that happens to take place somewhere that resembles Tolkien’s Middle Earth.  And that’s the sad, sad truth.

Read More

Here a Doc, There a Doc…

Here’s a paradox:  When I’m at my busiest, having the most fun, doing the most things it would be exciting to write about, I don’ t have time to write.  Yeah, life is tough sometimes.  A lot of the time.


In any case – we spent a long weekend at AFIDocs, a documentary film festival here in town.  We first “discovered” AFIDocs two years ago, when it was called Silverdocs, and it had been going on for many years before that.  The festival has undergone many changes in the last two years, and we sort of miss the halcyon days of the first time we attended, but it’s still a pretty amazing way to spend time.  This year, we saw ten movies in three days.  Some were “small” films that aren’t likely to see wide distribution; others have already been picked up for national distribution.

The overarching theme for us this year turned out to be Personal Responsibility — responsibility to recognize injustice and to act upon it.  (We didn’t plan our movie choices that way; it just happened.)  Movies that fit into that theme included:

  • 1971 — about a group of protesters who broke into the FBI office in Media, Pennsylvania, intending to steal draft records but ultimately stealing documents that disclosed the existence of the FBI’s domestic counterintelligence program
  • Freedom Summer — about the summer of 1964 and the volunteers who went to Mississippi to register voters, teach students in summer “Freedom Schools”, and create the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that tried to be seated as the legitimate Miss. delegation at the national Democratic convention
  • The Hand That Feeds — about a group of low-wage workers who organized a union at a New York fast food restaurant
  • The Internet’s Own Boy — about Aaron Swartz, the Internet activist who committed suicide rather than face trial for downloading unlawful copies of journal articles through MIT’s computers

We also saw several movies that were portraits of people:

  • Glen Campbell: I’ll Be Me — about the musician and his family and their decision to organize a final musical tour as he became increasingly incapacitated with Alzheimer’s
  • Life Itself — about Roger Ebert and his life as a journalist and film critic
  • Slingshot — about Dean Kamen and his quest to build and distribute a machine that will bring clean water to under-resourced regions of the world

And then there were a few “random” movies:

  • Misconception — about population control efforts, including mandatory family size limitation, lobbying efforts at the UN to fight all efforts to distribute health care to women, and Ghanaian orphans and abandoned children
  • The Search for General Tso — ostensibly about the origin of the dish General Tso’s Chicken, but mostly about Chinese immigration into the United States and the nature of cultural assimilation
  • When the Garden was Eden — about the championship New York Knicks teams of the late 60’s and early 70’s

My favorites ended up being Slingshot — Dean Kamen seems like a child-loving Willie Wonka, who creates gadgets instead of candy — and The Search for General Tso.  None of the movies was terrible (although the horribly uncomfortable seats in one of the auditoriums made some of the movies seem too long…)

All in all, a great way to spend a weekend.  And if you can see Slingshot, do.

Read More

Was That a Weekend?

Wow.  Yet another weekend has mugged us — I can’t believe that three days blew by so quickly!

Suffice to say, I got some reading done, and some writing-organizing.  I fiddled with print editions of FRIGHT COURT and CAPITOL MAGIC (should be out around Halloween…), and I poked at the Diamond Brides romance series.

I finished reading Jessica Scott’s BECAUSE OF YOU (hot military romance, and a recent USA Today Bestseller – go, Jessica!), and I started reading Anna Kendall’s CROSSING OVER.  (Anna Kendall is actually Nancy Kress — I’ve had this book on my to-be-read list for a long time, but I’m just getting to it.  And it’s good, and thought-provoking, and a lot darker than I expected, even though Nancy said it was dark!)

I watched a *lot* of baseball (including the Nationals’ longest game ever (time-wise) which was tied-for-longest-game-ever, inning-wise.  They won, which almost made it all worthwhile.

I watched the movie PROMISED LAND, which wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.  And I watched the latest installments of BREAKING BAD and THE NEWSROOM, both of which feel strange, because I’ve gotten used to power-watching multiple episodes of shows at a time.

I’m working on a new knitting project, a gift for a friend, using an easy pattern that doesn’t take a lot of concentration.  (It’s also quite forgiving; a few mis-stitched stitches don’t even show up!)

And I ate a ridiculous amount of food, without doing any cooking.  In a tragedy for my waistline, I discovered that the really good pizza place down the road *delivers* — not just pizza, but “cheesecake truffles” for dessert.  My life might never be the same…

I did some gardening, digging out the liriope that succumbed to crown rot.  (Sigh…)  Let’s just say that it’s a lot easier to dig out liriope with an appropriate tool.  And a trowel is not an appropriate tool.  (But a shovel, borrowed from a neighbor, is.)

This morning, I took my poor car into the body shop, to have its front bumper replaced.  (For those who missed the drama, someone hit-and-runned the car, cracking the bumper and taking the air grille on the right side.)  The shop was very easy to work with, and I hope the repairs will be done soon.  I have a rental car (covered by my insurance) until the operation is done.

And that’s life in Klaskyville.  How was your weekend?

Read More

The Film Festival That Was

We spent the past four days at AFIDocs (formerly, Silverdocs), a documentary film festival.  While I loved, loved, loved the festival last year, I had major misgivings about this year.  Last year, the festival was held in the D.C. suburb of Silver Spring, where five theaters were within five minutes of each other and countless independently owned (and some chain) restaurants waited to cater to the crowds, along with a Doubletree hotel that hosted visitors and treated them to special discounts.

This year, one of the festival’s key sponsors pulled out two months before the event.  A mad scramble was had, and the event was seriously reconfigured.  While some screenings were still held in Silver Spring, the vast majority of the movies were shown in downtown D.C. venues.  Those spaces were spread out — a fast walker would need about 15 minutes to get between the furthest two downtown spots, and sidewalk- and street-traffic could easily add another 15 minutes to the time.  The cluster of restaurants was gone (although there are *plenty* of good restaurants downtown!) and there was no sponsoring hotel, much less one with cheap event rates.

Oh – and they eliminated their online ticket purchases (at least, for ticket packages), and they scrapped their online scheduler (which helped to calculate which of each film’s two showings made sense, given venues that were already sold out.)

So, I didn’t have high hopes for this year’s festival.  But I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised!  The downtown auditoriums generally worked quite well for the screenings.  (The seats in the Goethe Institut site were too loose, so that the entire row rocked every time someone shifted in his seat, but otherwise…)  We checked out several new-to-us restaurants and enjoyed a couple of old favorites.  We found convenient places to hang out during the inevitable gaps between some films — we both got a lot of reading done, along with movie-watching!

And the films were quite varied!  None of them was an utter failure; even the lowest-ranked (by us; we don’t know the official winner of the Audience Award yet) was still entertaining, or educational, or beautiful, or all three.  We saw:

WHITE BLACK BOY — An albino Tanzanian boy is plucked from his family’s village and sent to an English-only boarding school, so that he can be kept safe from hunters who would kill him to harvest his body parts for witchcraft.

TEENAGE — The evolution of youth culture and youth rights, from 1895 – 1945, focusing on the U.S., England, and Germany.

THE KILL TEAM — The trial of an American soldier (and fellow infantrymen) accused of murdering innocent Afghanis during the war.

EXPEDITION TO THE END OF THE EARTH — A journey to typically ice-locked fjords in the north of Greenland, when those fjords become accessible due to icecap meltoff.

RENT A FAMILY, INC — A Japanese man’s business, renting himself out as a supposed family member to people who need a husband, father, etc. (and a look at his own dysfunctional family).

LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM — A boy born with progeria (early aging), and his parents’ search for a drug treatment.

LOST FOR LIFE — Juveniles sentenced to life without parole.

MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS — Impossible to describe, “rock documentary” about the indie band, The National, which ends up being an autobiography of the lead singer’s brother (the documentarian), in a very funny, very sweet picture of a guy who doesn’t know how to grow up.

MUSCLE SHOALS — Recording studios in Alabama.

ANITA — Anita Hill, during and after the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings.

My favorite was the utterly quirky MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS.  The best cinematography was either EXPEDITION or WHITE BLACK BOY.  The movies you’re most likely to see come Oscar season are THE KILL TEAM, LOST FOR LIFE, and ANITA.  And LIFE ACCORDING TO SAM was everything you’d expect it to be from the subject matter, and then some — Sam is a funny, sweet, inspiring boy who you just *want* to spend more time with.

All in all, a great way to spend the long weekend.

Read More