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Bibliorape, or The Adaptation of Books to Film

April 25, 2010 Leave a comment

When I watch a movie based on a book I like, I try to be fair. There are things books can do which movies are simply incapable of, and movies can be capable of showing things more swiftly than books. So I try to evaluate movie adaptations with consideration for the strengths and weakness of film as a storytelling medium.

Since books can contain a lot more plot than you can successfully convey in a 1.5-2 hour time period and no one is willing to put intermissions in movies, the plots of book to film adaptations must be boiled down. If the plot is fairly straightforward, this works. For a more epic story which takes multiple books to build to its finale, though, it’s a death sentence. Take Harry Potter, for instance. They’re making the 7th book into two movies because they have to fill in a lot of blanks they created by cutting pertinent information out of the second through fifth books.

That said, in the past 24 hours I’ve watched Twilight: New Moon and Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. Neither were good adaptations.

Spoilers below for books and movies.

Percy Jackson

What if all the old Greek myths were true stories? What if the Greek gods were still up to their old tricks, keeping the world going and occasionally having trysts with mortals? What if their demigod children were still fighting to save the world from monsters? And what if, between a magical veil that keeps most mortals from seeing what’s really going on and the fact that magical items and beings have had their looks updated to fit the modern world, all of this were happening right under our noses?

That’s the world the Percy Jackson books take place in. It’s very true to the Greek myths, and while Percy somehow manages to find himself having one-on-one conversations with all of the Greek gods and reliving many of the myths over the course of the series, all of these events wind through a new, epic plot which is entirely the books’ own. It’s one of the best book series I’ve read, and the first movie ruins it.

While I’m curious to find out if there’s any possibility of recovering the main story arc after the first movie’s failure to lay any groundwork for it… I have better things to do with my time than watch the other movies.

Bad

  • No big prophecy about demigod children of Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Everyone knows from the outset that Percy is Poseidon’s son, and no one thinks anything of it.
  • Instead, to justify Percy’s ignorance of his heritage, Zeus forbade the gods to interact with their children directly. This turned Poseidon into a whiny fellow.
  • Percy doesn’t leave camp with an officially assigned quest — he leaves against orders, in the middle of the night. No oracle visit, so no little prophecy here.
  • No oracle at all, in fact. How are they gonna make up for that later, considering how important the oracle’s existence and current state are to Luke’s character development?
  • Many of the characters who are instrumental later on are totally absent.
  • The books don’t start indicating romance between Percy and Annabeth until book 3, if I recall correctly. There was no need to start it up in the first movie, and I can think of several better uses for the time spent on romantic exposition.
  • Speaking of Annabeth, where’s her Yankees baseball cap of invisibility? Oh yeah — they took out almost all of the magical items disguised as mundane things. The one they did keep, Percy’s sword, went unnamed and looked like a fancy gold pen instead of a cheap plastic Bic. This, combined with the fact that the gods almost never look as described in the books and the total absence of Camp Half-Blood T-shirts, serves to make the movie look “cooler” and reduce its uniqueness.
  • Annabeth is to the Percy Jackson movie as Uhura is to the new Star Trek movie. They had to make the token female a visibly “strong” character, so they ruined her personality. (On a minor note, why are Annabeth’s eyes blue?)
  • It’s established early on in the books that Zeus dislikes Percy, and as such Percy had better stay out of the sky. That’s why they didn’t just fly to California. He never puts Luke’s winged shoes on, a fact that saves him in Hades’ realm.
  • Persephone. Big, fat WTF here. She’s not even in this book, anyway, ’cause it takes place during summer, when she’s not in the underworld.
  • What about Hades’ helm?
  • I doubt they’re gonna cut out the duel between Ares and Percy later. But what reason are they going to have to fight each other? Their relationship starts out rocky in the books because Ares gives Percy the lightning bolt at the diner.
  • There’s no hydra in this book. They hydra comes in later. And it’s not nearly as cool here, because Annabeth doesn’t explain that another Starbucks pops up every time a hydra grows a new head.
  • The Mist, which hides all these crazy, modern-day, mythical happenings from the eyes of mere mortals, is never mentioned in the movie. While that’s okay for the first movie, there’s a rampaging Titan coming up later whose real nature can only be covered by the Mist.

Understandable/Interesting

  • Percy Jackson’s first appearance in the film is at the bottom of a pool. He sits there while some credits roll by, and when he comes up, Grover tells him he’s been down there for 7 minutes. Good way to indicate his affinity for water early on.
  • I’m unsure why they kept Percy’s fugitive status in the movie at all, since they made finding the pearls (a gift from Poseidon, in the books) the driving force behind their movement across the country.
  • Grover Underwood is the new Neville Longbottom. By making him badass in the movie, they left a lot less room for him to grow. However, I suspect that the finding Pan subplot is going to be left out of the movies.
  • Annabeth dishes out a couple of mythical tidbits that I don’t recall her mentioning in the books.

Good

  • Grover on crutches is an excellent alternative to zooming in on Grover’s legs with a narrative voice-over from Percy about how he walks funny, which would have been the obvious way to make sure the audience noticed something was off about his legs.
  • Grover ate an aluminum can, and they zoomed in on his face while he did it. I don’t know if they fashioned an aluminum can out of candy or what, but it looked realistic and I loved it. I just wish they’d had him eat more. His aluminum can diet was always good for a giggle in the books.
  • Annabeth still has her knife! Why is that a good thing? Just ’cause I would feel dirty plugging it into the understandable/interesting category. Her knife is needed later, and the way they made her a badass with a sword would have made it so easy to just kind of leave the knife out.
  • The only thing that made me laugh in the film was the scene where they get high on the lotus flowers. That was hilarious. And they did a good job of representing different time periods with peoples’ dress.

Twilight: New Moon

The Twilight books are horrible material for film adaptation. Mostly talking heads, especially in the first two books. Hollywood would have done us all a favor to just leave them as a best-selling book fad, but that’s not how money cow ranchers roll. The first movie was a reasonable adaptation of the book, having had only one change I found truly distasteful. (I’m not saying anything about the acting, here; just the adaptation.) New Moon, on the other hand, was rubbish.

Bad

  • In the movie, Bella doesn’t figure out that Jacob’s a werewolf — she sees him transform when Paul loses control and shifts. I classify this as bad instead of interesting/understandable because it makes an already unlovable character worse by taking away what brain power she had. This also put several scenes out of order.
  • The wolves are too small. They’re supposed to be big enough for people to think they’re bears. The movie makers may have chosen this size because Jacob’s wolf form is supposed to get bigger, eventually overtaking Sam in size, but even Sam’s wolf just looks like a big dog.
  • Harry Clearwater’s mundane death in the middle of all the paranormal madness was one of my favorite part of the books. To this day, I still wonder: did he have a heart attack when Seth and/or Leah changed shape in front of him for the first time? Or did his heart attack prompt one or both of his children to change for the first time? Handing his death over to Victoria was just wrong.
  • Edward fought the Volturi in the heart of Volturi territory. He should have been dead within seconds, even with the ability to read minds. There should have been twenty vampires bat-piling him as soon as he took his first swing.

Understandable/Interesting

  • The religion conversation between Bella and Carlisle was shortened for the movie. I kinda wish they’d kept the whole thing in, but cutting it short makes sense for pacing reasons. We’d have spent way more time either watching Carlisle sew, or watching Carlisle sew and then clean, if they’d kept the whole thing in. And they did a good job of keeping the point of the conversation intact.

Good

  • October… November… December… January. Seeing how they accomplished this, one of the most interesting things Meyer did with the writing of the books, was one of my main reasons for watching the movie in the first place. And I like it. So simple, so elegant. Much better than how I’d imagined I would do it. I do think they still should have had Charlie deliver his “You’re going to Jacksonville” ultimatum over the breakfast table, though — switch from showing Bella staring out the window to a top-down view of a bowl of cereal with a hand poking a spoon in and out of it, which vibrates madly when Charlie pounds his fist on the table, followed by a quick cut to Charlie’s face.

The Sound of Music Rehearsals: It’s Like a Giant Puzzle!

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Monday, we ran through act one. Tuesday, we ran through act two. Wednesday was a day of working on various groups’ weakest songs. Today (Thursday), Shane and Lindsey are busy working on leading man and lady stuff. Tomorrow… well, they haven’t sent out the e-mail for tomorrow yet. Rolf and Liesl are called tomorrow, for sure, which Erin announced on Tuesday.

The run through of act one went pretty well. We were mostly aware of what we were doing, and had missed the blocking of few scenes, in spite of the fact that we’ve been blocking things out of order and piecemeal. The run through of act two was less good. The only scene in act two which had been neglected was scene one… but that scene is half the act. Oops. Since it is the second act, people are also less solid on both lines and music.

Had a bad moment during the wedding scene in act two — we nuns failed at working our blocking properly. That ended up getting completely reworked on Wednesday anyway, though. There were set pieces (desk, chairs, suitcase) to be removed as part of all this, which had people ending up in different places than they had originally been blocked, and then that threw off this and that and the other thing. The end result is that we’re still doing basically the same thing, but with some people in different places and now all the nuns know exactly when to move. It’s a good thing.

Everyone’s command of their music is gradually strengthening. Some people are singing songs they’ve never heard before, even though all the cast members have at least seen the movie. As with any full-length musical adapted to film, some of the songs from the musical were either omitted from the movie or used as background music in passing for the movie. One song, the love song Maria and the Captain sing together, was replaced with a different song for the movie. Max and Frau Schraeder both get to sing — twice, I think, off the top of my head. The nuns do more singing than everyone else — except, perhaps for the von Trapp children.

The youngest actor among the von Trapp children is six years old, and adorable. She has also never had to learn any music as complex as the stuff they’re singing here. She’s not the only relatively inexperienced singers amongst the von Trapp children, and the next-youngest child is eight. But I’ll tell you what — they’ve come a long, long way since their first singing rehearsal. They sound beautiful. And they’re only getting better. :D

Have I mentioned that this production is gonna be awesome?

People keep telling us that the nuns are getting similar compliments from people who overhear us rehearsing. We know better, though. We’re much improved, ourselves, but there are a few rough patches that are taking a while to file down. And our weakest song, so far, is the finale. (Its official title in the score, by the way, is Finale Ultimo. No pressure.) Now, granted, it’s our least-rehearsed song. However, we want it to sound fantastic, because the song is fantastic. The nuns, in general, get some of the most beautiful music in the show, but that song is truly lovely. Amazing four-part harmony under the Climb Ev’ry Mountain melody line, sung by the mother abbess.

Ah, look at me — I’m getting a dreamy smile on my face just thinking about it. I’d say I’m going to go practice it, but the truth is that I’m going to go watch the second episode of this new Japanese drama show I’ve been watching. Now that I’m off book, I use some sound files I made to practice my music while I’m at work.

Sims 3 Legacy Challenge Scorecard Spreadsheet v1.1

April 18, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve updated my Sims 3 Legacy Challenge scorecard spreadsheet to include an Aspiration Rewards worksheet. When you purchase aspiration rewards, you can no longer see how much they cost you. The new sheet allows you to type in how many times you’ve purchased each reward for the Sim in question (since two can be purchased multiple times) and calculates how many points you’ve spent from that information. Another field allows you to enter the number of points you’ve yet to spend so the sheet can calculate the total points accumulated.

I also made some aesthetic changes. I darkened the section headings so I could use the original light blue color to highlight data entry fields.

The new sheet can be downloaded via Google Documents. (Edit: There’s a new version.) It is an .xls file with no macros in it. Although I crafted it in Office 2007, it uses only basic formulas, so there shouldn’t be any compatibility issues with older versions of Office or with OpenOffice. If you do have any problems, please let me know by leaving a comment.

The Sound of Music Rehearsals: All the Nuns Do, Really, is Get Onstage and Sing

April 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve been called to rehearsal thrice this week. The first two were just the nuns doing more parts work with Justin. Charlotte, who plays the Mother Abbess in the show, has her secret identity as a voice instructor, so she’s been helping Justin catch things we need to fix. She pointed out on Monday that when the second sopranos are spot-on, the whole choir is spot-on. Since I had noticed prior to that observation that if I fuck up, the rest of the section fucks up, I find myself in a position where I can drag the entire choir down. (I’m poorly skilled at blending with my section and have a strong voice, so a couple of the girls listen to me to make sure they’re on track.) For most of the songs this isn’t a problem, but I have a couple of problem spots, including having to punch a C through a Gmaj chord, which are going to be the focus of most of my solo practicing. I have the music pretty much memorized, now, thankfully, so I just need to practice those trouble spots over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and OVER until my head wants to explode.

Tuesday we had another nun join our ranks. An offstage nun, sent to bolster the altos, since this new nun is actually a guy — and a rather large one, at that. There’s no way we’d be able to pass him off as a woman onstage, even with the habits covering just about everything. So Sister Mary Timothy (nuns do sometimes take guys’ names) will spend the entire show in the wings, making our four-part harmony sound better without having to be too hot under a stifling costume.

Yesterday we finished the nuns’ blocking. That was short work. Our movement for anything but scene changes is limited, but then we spend however long on stage singing our hearts out. The nuns do more singing in the play than I had first anticipated when I went up for the part. (Just saying, mind; I love it.) I’m pretty sure the nuns are the only people in the show with four-part harmony. The kids have some harmony in their version of The Sound of Music, but it’s three-part. And while I think the kids have at least one instance of a capella singing, the nuns start the show with a capella. It’s pretty grand.

Speaking of the nuns starting the show: the school shows, the ones intended field trips, are being shortened. The full show — which is what we’re doing for all the evening and weekend performances — runs about two and a half hours. We’re cutting an hour, if I recall correctly, for the school shows. Included in the cuts are almost everything the nuns sing. The show is going to start with Maria singing The Sound of Music, and the wedding preparation scene in which we sing the number I’ve dubbed Nuns: The Reprisal is being removed. I don’t know what other cuts are being made, but any nun without lines is going to sing one random song in the middle and then the ending number, where we all come onstage with the Mother Abbess for a four-part harmony version of Climb Every Mountain. If I had to guess, the cuts that Erin has decided to make are going to result in the school shows being a lot like the movie version.

Argh, a Gmaj chord with a C added to it! It drives me bonkers just thinking about it.

The MacEpic Legacy: The Heir is Born

April 13, 2010 Leave a comment

These are a few of my favorite colors.

I took some time to color-coordinate the house in red and pink, Kevin’s and Zelda’s favorite colors, respectively. I then expanded the house, making sure to have enough room for an addition to the family. The incoming kid would get its own room; the addition of a dining room enabled me to put the high chair in the kitchen. The bathroom is tiny, so the training potty is in the study. I just realized I don’t have a TV or a place to watch one… but I also don’t care too much.

The baby was born! A boy, whom I named Frederick. Frederick MacEpic. He was born with two traits (yay, baby books), which randomized out to Easily Impressed and Neurotic. I already have to renege on my intent to feed all non-greenies to the time stream, though, since mama just turned too old to have kids.

Damnation!

Another side effect of Zelda’s aging is that I may not be able to fulfill her Lifetime Wish of becoming a Rock Star. She’s only at level 2 on the music track. So, like many old folks, she’s taking up travelling. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let her die without having done SOMETHING cool.

I took Zelda to France, and used up some of the family funds to buy all three books on nectar making. It’s gonna take an additional 2700 simoleons to get a nectar maker and a good rack; I didn’t have the money, so I decided to buy the actual nectar-making supplies later. I then sent her into a tomb as part of an adventure. Her exploration ended up netting her enough money for the nectar maker and rack. In fact, before buying those, I was back up to almost as much money as I’d had before I started the vacation. Not bad for an old woman.

I’ve continued to send Zelda to France every few days, and will do so as long as she keeps coming back with more money than she left with. I hope she doesn’t die on vacation. That would suck. The museum in France had a martial arts dummy, so I gave her a skill point in that, but she has no way to practice at home, since I haven’t sent anyone to China yet. I got some of the special grapes from France and set her to using them to make nectar upon her return.

Kevin is now a mad scientist (with a spiky hairdo and killer shades as part of his work uniform), and Fredrick has aged up. He got one trait, which randomized to Never Nude. As soon as I set him to playing chess, his logic leveled to 4. I have yet to try him on the guitar yet, since I keep it in Mama’s inventory so she can practice. I refuse to give up on trying to get her Rock Star status just because she’s turned gray around the edges.

Speaking of, she got a job opportunity requiring her to go to Egypt and talk to people about music. I decided to take the whole family, since Kevin also had a book-delivering opportunity. I forgot to take the book, though, so… oops. He’s currently hanging with Frederick while Zelda goes about her merry, adventuresome way.

To help secure the line, I’m planning to get Kevin up to 15k lifetime reward points and give him No Jealousy so he can knock someone else up without losing relationship with Zelda. I am also hoping to turn Fred into an artist so I can paint portraits of Mum & Dad before they kick it.

Current Legacy Points: 3

Review: Hidarime Tantei EYE

April 11, 2010 2 comments

I am currently watching Hidarime Tantei EYE. A pilot aired in October 2009, and the 8 episode follow-up series finished airing a few weeks ago.

Stolen synopsis:

Tanaka Ainosuke, a third-year junior high school student with a strong sense of justice, underwent a cornea transplant of the left eye. However, after that, he received news that his older brother, Yumehito, the donor of that cornea, had died in an accident. Furthermore, Ainosuke was shocked by the images in his left eye which he had never seen before. Deducing that these images were connected to his brother’s death, Ainosuke began to search for the truth surrounding the death of his beloved brother and only immediate family. But as the investigation progressed, Ainosuke discovered that Yumehito’s death had been fake and that he is actually the leader of an evil organization. This sets the stage for a clash of fate between the two brothers. Ainosuke, the young sleuth armed with a special left eye and Yumehito, the genius criminal who has carried out many criminal plots.

It’s completely unrealistic and fairly silly, which would be fine if it had some redeeming qualities. Ainosuke’s sidekick is his school nurse, a shollow woman with a spending problem who’s supposed to provide comic relief by succumbing to her weak will and dodging debtors. Occasionally she punches the main character in the face to jump-start the visions from his replacement eye.

As far as I can tell, no one is subtitling it. I can’t say I blame them for not bothering. The only reason I am going to finish watching it is because I already downloaded the whole thing.

Edit: It gets better towards the end of the show. The sidekick school nurse’s money problems become less of a focus. As the main plot comes out from behind the clouds of episode mini-plots, Ainosuke’s actor gets more chances to show that he has skill. I’m glad I’ve finished watching it. It’s still far from the best I’ve seen, but at least it drew me in some near the end.

The Sound of Music Rehearsals: The Nunnery

April 8, 2010 Leave a comment

Yesterday started out as a full-cast rehearsal. We all did warm-ups together — real, full warm-ups — for the first time, including some more name-learning. We then picked up where we left off with the read-through of the script. There was little left, so it took us less than an hour. Erin (the staging director) made some general comments about the direction she wants to take us in; she and Jaime (the stage manager) made some announcements regarding things they need from us. My tendency to ask more questions than anybody else manifested itself in a slightly-amusing-but-slightly-exasperating fashion, as usual. I’ve resolved to try to rein my question-asking in a bit, writing down questions that apply only to myself or to a few people for later asking.

One of the cast members will be taking head shots of us for the programs, and we get to write bios to go next to them. I’ve seen many bios in programs over the course of my life; my favorite is that of a music student at UAF, who performs “on a 1986 larynx handcrafted with love (and shall we say by love) by [mother’s name] and [father’s name].” My current rough draft is less amusing than that:

Lena LeRay began acting at the early age of eight, making her debut as Monkey #1 in Alaska Theatre of Youth’s 1993 production of The Jungle Book. She participated in the drama club during her year of college-level student exchange in Kushiro, Japan, where she learned that literacy is an essential part of sight-reading a script (if having nothing to do with a balanced breakfast). This role in The Sound of Music is her first onstage role in nine years and her second role in a musical. A few of her favorite things are video games, great stories, and the Japanese tea ceremony.

After Erin finished announcements and answering [my] questions, a few people were called to work on songs with Justin (the musical director) and the nuns and postulants were called to work with Erin. She divvied us up, assigning us to specifically be postulants, novices, or nuns. I am a fully-sworn nun. I already knew that I would be, though. Somewhere along the line, I saw a list of cast members that had “postulant” next to my name, and after I mentioned that aloud Erin informed me that I would actually be a nun.

Last night, Erin encouraged us to start formulating the details of our personae, even though most of us have no lines. I’ve been doing some of that already, and given the foreknowledge that I would be a full-fledged nun I had already decided that I wanted to try to exude the sort of feel that I got from my tea ceremony teacher in Japan: warm and hospitable, a font of experience and knowledge, and free with smiles and encouragement when mistakes are made. My nun may end up being nothing like Ikushima-sensei, of course, but she is the inspiration. And the Japanese tea ceremony gives me a sense of peace and serenity that I imagine a nun gets from her religious life.

We blocked the first two nun group scenes, which will have Maria’s solo rendition of the musical’s theme song in between them, and proved to remember our songs quite well, considering the fact that they were performed a capella (as they should be) while simultaneously figuring out how to move to where we needed to be in a graceful and nunly fashion. Very promising. I’ve never worked under Erin as a director before, and I can already see why Shane calls her a “super-director”; she’s making creative use of the available space to capture the audience from the very first second.

Random Side Note: Erin’s told us about the set; it’s going to be badass. It’s so kick ass I’m not even going to tell you about it; you’ll have to either come see it or listen to me describe it after opening night. Well, I’ll give you one hint: one of my many questions for Erin last night was “Are the nuns going to start out in the set?” >:D

Things to do:

  • Research nuns: their rings, vows, history, the nuns of Nonnberg Abbey in particular, Catholic practices, etc.
  • Research names a nun might take (and if you have any suggestions, please let me know)
  • Final draft-ify that bio
  • Memorize my song lyrics and melodic lines (which I think I’ll have to do at the same time)

TBA Theatre’s Sound of Music Performance Schedule

Most of our performances will be of the full script and run about two and a half hours with an intermission. We are also doing some shorter shows, about an hour and a half with no intermission, during the day on weekdays. These shorter performances are intended for grade school field trips. Last I heard, which was last Thursday, there was still room unreserved in those performances. Interested parties should contact TBA Theatre.

Full-Script Shows:

Friday, May 7 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 8 at 3:00 PM, 7:00 PM
Sunday, May 9 at 3:00 PM

Friday, May 14 at 7:00 PM
Saturday, May 15 at 3:00 PM, 7:00 PM
Sunday, May 16 at 3:00 PM

School Shows:

Thursday, May 6 at 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM
Friday, May 7 at 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM

Thursday, May 13 at 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM
Friday, May 14 at 10:00 AM, 12:30 PM