Movie Before Book? Or Book Before Movie?

She asked what I was reading. So I told her Dust of Dreams and showed her the book. She said I am smart. This launches into a weird conversation culminating in the question. She asked, “Is it weird I watch the movie before reading the book?” A little over a year ago a friend asked me the same question.

My response was I have done the same thing. I pointed out I watched the first three Harry Potter movies without reading the books. But, then I really was confused about the story of the third one enough, I ended up getting the books and reading them before catching up on the movies. But that is not really a good example.

So what do you do? Movie first? Book first? Both ways depending on mood?

My thoughts…

    • Some movies made no sense to me, so I went back to read the book, and watched the movie again. The 2nd time around, the movie made much more sense. So often I try to read the book first, so I can enjoy the movie without feeling lost.
    • Some stories seem not that interesting. Why invest 10-20 hours reading a book when I can just watch a 2-3 hour movie?
    • Books allow me to give my own visual identity to characters, places, and things.
    • Watching the movie gives a director’s visual identity to characters, places, and things.
    • For me, movie first or middle relies on the director’s visual identity instead of my own. I guess it depends on whether I like the director’s take over my own?

Anyway, I also showed her Goodreads as she was interested in what I thought about a book. (I have not read it. But maybe it can hook her up with friends who have?)

Oh, and it is rather intelligent to call others smart. It feels nice.

AMC Best Picture Showcase

Last Saturday and yesterday a couple friends and I attended AMC movie theater’s Best Picture Showcase. This is an event where the movie theater shows all the nominees for Academy Award for Best Picture. I first attended back when there were only 5 movies. Over the past few years there have been as many as 10. This year there were nine: Amour, Les Miserable, Argo, Django Unchained, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Silver Lining’s Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty.

I’d call this year of the memorable slap. Almost all of these have a scene where a character looking the other in the eye slaps the other. It is like it is a theme for the year.

One of the reasons I like attending this event is the entire slate of movies are overall quality movies. Though, I did enjoy some far more than others.

Amour: Hard to watch as the story of an elderly woman having strokes and falling apart is way too familiar to me. I do have to say the portrayal was pretty accurate.

Les Miserable: I have never seen the play. I think if I had, then I would find it more entertaining. Instead, the constant singing was more annoying.

Argo: One of the two I saw prior. Just as entertaining the second time through. It mixes danger and humor well. Probably should hate it because it took too many liberties with the history, but I don’t? My #1 pick for best picture.

Django Unchained: As to be expected, this was Inglorious Bastards with a different bad part of history and to out do the over the top violence.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: The Life-Sucks-But-We-Will-Overcome nominee, it felt preachy. Most damning were the aurochs. They felt completely off putting.

Life of Pi: The tiger at times looked like Puss In Boots from Shrek. So adorable. Visually amazing through over a dozen scenes. The story was pretty weak and dumbed down.

Lincoln: The second of the two I saw prior. The makeup and casting were amazing. Some strangely supernatural lighting as in one case Robert Lincoln’s face is well lit under his hat so we can see his expression while the Sun is in the background. I happen to enjoy political speeches, but this was even boring to me.

Silver Lining’s Playbook: Love is the best mental health medicine? True love. Not “I want to be in love with her” stalker infatuation.

Zero Dark Thirty: Any movie that upsets Congressmen enough to want hearings is a keeper. Okay, it is not a sequel to the Hurt Locker, but both movies use an emotionless tone. I think it is Biegelow’s point that war’s greatest atrocity is sapping those involved of their emotional humanity. Gun fire and explosions sound more real in this movie than most movies. My #2 pick, I think.

My Oscar Picks

Yesterday I went to the second day of the AMC Best Picture Showcase which shows the Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. The Colonial 18 in Lawrenceville hosted the event. The Saturday prior I also went with a friend. The movies I really liked ranked from best down are:

  1. The King’s Speech
  2. The Social Network
  3. True Grit
  4. Inception

The first three I had already seen and looked forward to seeing again. The last one I probably will watch a second time. The rest were good movies, but I probably would not miss only seeing them only once. The exception is Black Swan. I wish I had never seen it. Of course, I hate psychological thrillers.

Personally, I think ten nominations are too many. Maybe it is just me, but I have trouble remember all ten. Five I can remember. Typically I falter at around the eighth movie and only a cue from someone else helps me remember the others.

Appendage damage appeared to be a theme. Several movies involved arms, fingers, legs getting dismembered or at the least broken. (As Amy said, “Mr. Potatohead does not count.”) Aron and Mattie lose their arms. Mickey has his hand broken by the police. Nina breaks toes and fingers. Laser’s friend breaks his arm in skateboarding off the room.

TED Talk: Taryn Simon

My favorite quote from Taryn is, “Photography threatens fantasy.” Disney uses intricate interior design, photography, and video to construct fantasy. Advertisements, magazines, weddings, and portraits are about showing others the ideal instead of the reality. Have you seen the Dove Evolution video? (This one has music and singing by a Baha’i musician Devon Gundry.) What about the Ralph Lauren photo?

Reality bites. Hard.

(See Taryn Simon photographs secret sites on the TED site)

TED About this talk: Taryn Simon exhibits her startling take on photography — to reveal worlds and people we would never see otherwise. She shares two projects: one documents otherworldly locations typically kept secret from the public, the other involves haunting portraits of men convicted for crimes they did not commit.

Also: Taryn on Charlie Rose, Discomfort Zone (Telegraph)

Little Changes

Flipping channels, I ran across Deep Impact during a speech given by the president (played by Morgan Freeman).

The black president didn’t amaze me. Hollywood figured out how to portray them a decade before the US figured out how to elect one.

What amazed me is that with all the really cool forward looking technology for the time, instructions for how to communicate the evacuation was sent by fax to news agencies. Yeah, it wasn’t emailed. The White House didn’t post it on a web site. No mention of Facebook. 😀

Is NASA powering landing craft with nuclear drives?

At least since this movie aired we have implemented programs to discover both the large and medium objects capable of regional to global catastrophes.

We still need a plan to do something about the ones we anticipate will hit us. Or how about a plan to save our legacies? (The children, art, history)

Feedback Loops

Remakes don’t scare me. Some are good. Some are bad. 

The thing to remember is, “Its just a movie.” The world won’t end over a poor movie. There’s always another one in a few weeks to either like or hate. If it stands up to the test of time, then you’ll buy the Blue-ray and next three formats over the next 30 years. If not, then just ignore it ever existed… Much like I’ve done with Superman III, Superman IV, Star Trek The Final Frontier, and hundreds of other movies.

Getting worked up over change? Not worth it.

Quibblers would have kept “Star Trek” more like its old self. Quibblers inhibit revolution. Quibblers would deny the basic law of forward motion in pop culture:

If you love something, they will remake it.

But if you really love it, you will set it free, and let them.

The Trouble With Quibbles

Film makers should keep in mind, the types of people involved in  fads: connectors, mavens, salesperson. Fans are mavens. People are going to trust the opinion of these fans. So if the fans’ concerns are just a few quibbles but still an endorsement, then the general public will flock to the movie. If these quibbles amount to wide rejection of the movie by the existing fans, then the general public will mostly stay away from it.

Quibbles are not really the issue. Endorsements are. 

I think you missed that there is a life-cycle to most such endeavors, and feedback is very useful at specific times, and disruptive (in a bad way) at others.

So, the problem with “fan feedback” non-stop is that they tend to fall into a mob mentality, off being “trolls” about any innovation. But, that said, remember that early forms of the Batman movie with the Heath L Joker was shown to fans (at a Comic Con) to get feedback on the style and whether too over the top. The feedback was used to find the balance and deal with the nature of the ending. Fans were given leaks and teasers (semi-trailers) along the way as well, but the mob rule was not allowed not hound the people making it.

That said, what makes a movie work or not is very different from what made its source material work. The reason the Spiderman movies worked for a large audience who knew nothing about the comics had a lot to do with the simpler nature of the comics. Batman has always been more complex in the psychology of its heroes and villains, as much by what does not happen as what does. Watchman is trickier given its narrative model and how much it connected with its time (Cold War, etc).

— PaulK
The Downside of Feedback

Design by committee sucks. So fans should not take over the process. However, total rejection of fan criticisms probably will result in rejection by the fans and slow sales.

The Digital Switch

The Long Tail claims consumers, given more options, will reflect their widely varied interests. Physical stores cannot fill all of the demand, so bytes stored on disk are the fastest, cheapest method for getting stuff to consumers. We see a mostly example of this shift in the shift to digital music.

Vinyl records were the first physical music media form I used. Later, cassette tapes (1980s) and compact disc (1990s) achieved dominance. In 2001, I started the transition to digital music. There were some stumbles along the way because of technology changes and trusting vendors saying Digital Rights Management is good for consumers. At present, I only listen to digital music when using my own collection.

Digital video seems more complicated. Web sites streaming and on-demand television have the potential to fit the Long Tail model where consumers have access to insanely varied content when they want it. DVRs neither fix the when (just shift the airing to another time) or the insanely varied content. Movie rental distributors like Blockbuster and Netflix are moving toward distributing digital movies and TV shows in setups similar to on-demand. Nothing has even come close to winning.

Digital books may yet get some traction. Computers screens cause eye strain. Laptops don’t feel like a book. PDAs, Blackberrys, and other handhelds with small screens require a ton of scrolling. A recent solution to this is “epaper” which doesn’t constantly refresh. The Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and Sony Reader are the biggest players. (The Long Tail is not available for the Kindle but is for the Reader. WTH?)

Remaining issues for me:

  1. Ownership is dying.
    • I really like the idea of playing music on my iPod or from CDs. I play DVDs on my computer because I can’t play my DVR stuff in a hotel. So streaming and on-demand only solutions bother me as long-term solutions. If it is easy for distributors to store it because it is just bytes, then it is easy for me to do so as well.
    • I have books from 20 years ago I can still read. Technology changes too much to depend on something I buy today working tomorrow. So maybe “renting” is a way better approach for digital media?
  2. The black markets for music and movies prove consumers want everything any time. Companies must embrace consumer demand and make it easier for consumers or suffer. I think companies changing to accommodate consumer demand is the only reason the music companies have survived. Litigation cannot solve it.
  3. Hardware investment gets expensive every few years.

My solution? Wait and see.

Blind Not Insane

The National Federation of the Blind is upset about a movie portraying people who are blind as behaving badly.

Pyyhkala, 36, of Boston, said he has read the book and seen parts of the film. He said his grievances stem from the film’s potential to sway public attitude about blindness. He said the movie exacerbates stereotypes and gives false information to uninformed viewers. [Link] (Since starting this post now requires a login?)

I haven’t seen the film or read the book, but the trailer for the films shows the people being put into quarrantine for a medical epidemic where people go blind. Stories generally portray people as acting incompetent and fearful when they are trapped in an unfamiliar situation. The whole point is to create an environment whereby a person, the hero or heroine, who is the bright light of reason and to whom everyone else appeals can rise to the challenge.

Blindness happens to use people who are blind, most likely because a the author was trying to be creative and use something readers would find new. Jose Saramago: “Stupidity doesn’t choose between the blind and the non-blind.” [Link]

Chris Danielsen, a national federation spokesman, said while he understands that the film plays on the public’s fear of sudden blindness, the idea that loss of sight is equal to incompetence and immorality is “outrageous” and “vicious.” Everyday tasks like getting dressed and using the bathroom do not become impossible if a person loses their sight, Danielsen said.

Works of fiction do not depict reality. Otherwise… they would not be fiction. Stop giving movies more meaning than they actually have. Otherwise, you give them power they didn’t already have.

The Catholic Church’s opposition to the Golden Compass made me read the book and go see the movie (latter was awful). I wouldn’t have cared otherwise. Denouncing it made me wonder what they had to fear from something so silly as a book and movie. After seeing the trailer, I wasn’t interested in Blindness. After reading about the opposition, I am interested. I don’t have much luck with movies from books lately, so I may go book first.

ST:XP Shutting Down

Star Trek: The Experience is shutting down September First? Geeks don’t make the annual pilgrimage to pray at the alter of the captain’s chair. Maybe Vegas is too expensive. Between dropping hundreds monthly on movie tickets, DVDs, comics, and video games, spending three months rent to see ST:XP doesn’t have the right magic.

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