Monday, September 6, 2010

The Winners & Losers of an Adaptation: Scott Pilgrim Edition

So after my second viewing (and a shower) of Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World I was inspired to write this post.

Now a disclaimer: if you talk of oh the book was better than the movie kind of talk I will shoot you in the eyes and pour acid in the sockets. We aren't doing 7th grade book reports anymore.

HOWEVER, I am merely posting this comparison to illustrate the subtleties and intricacies of adaptations and how diffcult it must be to take someone else's baby and make it yours.


the illustration for Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Vs. The Adaptation Process is mostly character-based, but obviously when you deal with character changes, shrinking roles, timeline restructuring, etc. inevitably plot changes come into play so bare with me.

Let's start with the losers!

Katayanagi Twins
-Even in the graphic novel they were underwhelming, in a way they were merely meant to show that despite a two-some, the evil exs thing was basically beyond scott pilgrim at that point and Ramona's growing aloofness was more problematic. In the film, what do you do with them when that element of the story is significantly removed along with Kim's kidnapping (which never made sense)? Well they are basically just another stop in the road for movie SP and although they do function in the film, they are basically moot.

Kim Pine
-Yes Alison Pill won our hearts over and really sold Kim's apathy and general "fuck off in a George Harrison" kind of way attitude, BUT it would have been so nice to understand more of her history and generally her relationship to Scott. It was great to include the "I'm sorry about me" line even if it was a tad unnecessary, but ultimately Kim's function was changed to fit the smaller time frame of the film.

Crash and the Boys
-Yes they have a moment in the film that's quite hilarious, BUT DUDE wouldn't it have sweet to see them use their mind powers to make music?? oh and the song that knocks everyone out would have been sweet too. Again all icing, but still...

Envy Adams
-Of all the things lost in the adaptation (all mostly necessary) I am probably most heartbroken about this. I think it was good that she doesn't come back at the end (something that felt a little tacked on in the graphic novel) and todd cheating on her was just too much for the film, but still ENVY ADAMS is such a sexy bitch goddess and it would have been interesting to see them to show more competition between her and Ramona and also to truly understand what happened between her and Scott illustrating how awful heartbreak really is in that universe (our universe).

now on to the winners!!!

Julie Powers
-We get it she's a total bitch and I did miss the moment in vol. 4 with Stephen Stills' song, BUT Aubrey Plaza owned Julie and really made her a more memorable (and more integral) character to the film overall. Her incessant reinforcement of Scott's past was a really nice tool on Wright's behalf because it gives us a bit of uncertainty to SP's moral fiber. He's not just an aloof slacker, he was in the business of breaking hearts.

Young Neil
-color me controversial, but Bacall and Wright did a wonderful thing with Young Neil making him way more important and giving him some really awesome moments like his introduction to Knives, and the 'punched the highlights out of her hair' moment too. Structurally it was great to have him know SP's parts and join the band blah blah anyway It just made him important character overall and hints at a possible Young Neil Vs. The World spinoff...(!!!)

Lucas Lee
-Chris Evans. 'Nuff said.

Knives Chau
-Ellen Wong took everything about Knives and gave it 10000%. I think too that in trimming the timeframe of the film and the number of events that happen in-between the beginning and ending of the story the essence of her story became much more prevalent and poignant and really quite moving. She's pretty much the same in the graphic novel and the movie, but I think in the film we were allowed to understand how it plays in SP's world a lot better.

Gideon Graves
-Even Bryan Lee O'Malley stated that even he can't compete with Jason Schwartzman and to an extent he's right. Although I miss the whole "drunk on craigslist moment" and the giant kanye ego-minded monster form of Gideon, Schwartzman is G-Man Graves, despite the whole neck control being kind of lame, (the explanation for Ramona's control was also kind of lame in the graphic novel but it was supposed to be)...I mean really the function of Gideon in the books was to illustrate that Scott could easily become him, but in the movie, Schwartzman just functions to steal the show. And be a really big dick.

Equally Winners and Losers

Scott and Ramona
-There are moments I miss in the film, but honestly the changes made were all necessary and the changes all function well and stand on their own. Would have liked more hair changes in Ramona though.

-Brandon Routh is pretty great, but I think with the restructuring of the story he still works well despite the lack of cheating bit, etc.

Stephen Stills
-No gay Stephen for the movie unfortunately, but Stephen still gets plenty of great moments. Music-wise Mark Webber shines pretty bright!

Wallace Wells
-but we already knew that


I've been thinking a lot about adaptations lately, recently reread The Hobbit and am flummoxed at how in the FUCK they are going to adapt that into a movie, the structure is so bizarre, but I digress. I also reread Lord of the Rings and am moving on to reread (and read) the Harry Potter series so lots of adaptations in the can. I was thinking about doing one of these on LOTR but that is an even bigger mess to untangle.

ALSO I am currently working on adapting Bryan Lee O'Malley's first graphic novel Lost At Sea into a film as bit of screenplay practice (and would be cool to make it in the future) so again the work and struggle it must take to adapt a movie and get people to ignore the "book was better than the movie" talk is really taking over my mind and I hope this piece shed light on this oft too mysterious process.


Sunday, July 4, 2010


what's up raptors

yeah, i just barfed with excitement in the title up there. SORRY GUYS.

yesterday i just made the most important movie-related purchase of at least the past 7 months: my IMAX ticket for Inception! YAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYBUEGBHGEHEMNRBELERBJ

ok sorry i barfed AGAIN

on a scale from one to werner herzog, rank your excitement for Inception.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Transmutation-Flaw: The Faux-pa of Remaking the Icon

Standing in front of the movie theatre, staring hopelessly at the showings board, I know it's been a long Friday. I know because I must have traveled back in time, somewhere between 1951 and 1984. The obviously post-Millenium light-board flickering with advertisements and showtimes is riddled with remade fanfare. Clash of the Titans. Disney's Alice in Wonderland. A Nightmare on Elm Street. Death at a Funeral. Didn't that just come out a few years ago?

As we buy the tickets, I turn to scan upcoming movie posters, COMING SOON plastered above them in their plastic casings. The Karate Kid. Robin Hood. I'm not thinking about Pat Morita or Kevin Costner. I'm not analyzing the ethnicity of the new karate kid, nor reciting Alan Rickman's Sheriff of Nottingham lines in my head. I'm thinking about Jackie Earl Haley.

Jackie Earl Haley has a kind of silly way about him. Like Cypher from The Matrix. Biting wit, sarcasm, maybe we don't entirely take him seriously. He's currently on Fox's Human Target as the staple techno-nerd (think Abby on NCIS or early Gregg on CSI) with his own jargon and a heart-of-gold. The phrase "In English, please" is characteristically pointed at this character. But he'll turn on you. Believe it. We all did in Little Children. So, between Ronnie McGorvey and Rorschach from Watchmen, some of us tried to believe that we could accept him as Freddy Krueger, child murderer and dream assassin. We held our breath in the theatre: am I really going to be able to accept this Freddy as Freddy?

No. Sadly Not.

There are five distinct reasons why I could never accept Jackie Earl Haley as Freddy Krueger:
(1) The Make-up:: Haley kind of looks like a mix between a Naked Mole-Rat and a burned Na'vi. And is it just me or do his burns change their look throughout the film?
(2) That Voice:: Why hello, Rorschach, is that what you look like under your face-bag with the changing expressions? Didn't realize the two fictional characters existed in the same world. Maybe Silk Spectre and Dr. Manhattan can come and kill Freddy in the next one.
(3) Stop Talking, Freddy. And work on your laugh:: The only thing worse than that voice was hearing a lot of it. Krueger was very vocal about the kids learning what happened to him, why he got burned; he was constantly dropping hints that he not only needed to be vengeful, but you need to know why. Did we not learn anything from Oldboy? Exacting revenge on the ignorant is way freakier than leaving breadcrumbs.
(4) The "Have-Mercy" Pedophile:: Quit crying about how "Whatever you think I did, I didn't do!" before getting scorched to oblivion in that boiler room. Craven's Freddy murdered 20 children on Elm Street and didn't bat an eye. In fact, he enjoyed it. You take a few racy photos of a 5 year-old girl, cry about dying in a fire, then seek "revenge." Craven's Krueger was just finishing what he started. And he never cried about it.
(5) Sorry, You're just not Robert Englund:: Major apologies Haley. I know there's nothing you can do about it. But you're just not Robert Englund.

And after walking out of the theatre with my Nightmare-inclined friend looking disappointed and scarred by the direction cinema is taking, I know why this will never work. Remake after remake, Hollywood can rip characters from comics and books and recast and reboot and toy around with, but please, please, please...stop trying to Remake the Icons.

Freddy Krueger was an invention of Wes Craven who was brought to life through eight segments, EIGHT films, by Robert Englund. He created Freddy, mastered him, and turned him into a legend of the slasher screen. As far as we're concerned, Englund is Krueger (just watch Wes Craven's New Nightmare). So when a slasher newbie like Haley steps into wildly oversized shoes, he's going to fall.

And that's not the only one.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory got its remake in 2005 with the eccentric and much-beloved Johnny Depp. No way a new-kid to the weird and wild, the shoes really should have fit him when he took on Willie Wonka. But the role was flat and forced. I found his characterization lay mostly in the hair and hat and Depp's ability to use sharp, theatrical movements (kind of like the way Michael Jackson dances - something unnatural becomes natural) to accentuate the peculiar. But Willie Wonka was made and molded into Gene Wilder in 1971. His creepy-casual disregard for the children's well-being, his matter-of-fact manner, his bi-polar manic breakdown, all added a depth which Depp's Wonka severely lacked. I think, most importantly, Wilder's Wonka was inherently adult. He talked down to the children, and sometimes the adults, as a diligent CEO may speak to a McDonalds employee. Depp's Wonka was a child and came off childish, a man who did not deserve his candyland legend.

Should I even explain Gus Van Sant's 1998 mistake that was casting Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates in his remake of Psycho? I respect Van Sant's attempt to create the shot-to-shot color remake of Hitchcock's indelible thriller, but Anthony Perkin's cannot be remade or replaced as Bates. It's near blasphemy.

When it comes to using different actors throughout a series of films, I can think always of the pained attempt of Julianne Moore to play Clarice Starling in Hannibal. Jodie Foster put devotion and torment, along with a repressed naivety, into Starling. Her characterization made Starling a youthful agent, but smart and adaptable. Despite her inexperience in the field, she was crafty and courageous, doing what she needed to in order to close the case. At the end of the film, she had a further understanding of Lector, but respected and understood her inferior intelligence and could, at best, know she would always be one step behind him. Yet Moore shirked this in her reprise of Starling, and attempted to take on the "I understand him" posit. She pushed her growth of Starling away from brashly courageous in spite of her...lack of knowledge, into a kind of "I know all" confidence that made her less endearing. Less accessible. We're suppose to relate to Clarice to access Hannibal, but they both kept out of reach in the sequel.

The Shining is a peculiar case for me, particularly because I am a Stephen King fan, first and foremost. And while Kubrick's classic interpretation holds heavy (due to its diversion from the psychological freakshow that is the novel), I cannot deny the performance of my second celebrity crush, Jack Nicholson. His psycho-breakdown is iconic in its move from well-adjusted writer to homicidal maniac. "Heeeere's Johnny!" through the doorway has got to be one of the most recognizable breakthroughs in cinema-murderer history. However, in 1997, a made-for-tv movie starring Steven Weber attempted to do justice to the King's novel. The only thing lacking: Jack Nicholson as Jack Torrence. While the justice may have been served by directly portraying scenes described in the novel, Steven Weber was never as psychologically damaged (or damned) enough to remake the icon.

So, I google search the upcoming remakes and immediately I'm assaulted by the thoughts of "Who could possibly play that role?!" The list includes:
- I Spit on Your Grave; Character: Jennifer Hill
- Escape from New York; Character: Snake Plisskin
- Back to the Future; Character: Marty McFly; Character 2: Doc Brown
- Barbarella; Character: Barbarella
Some already cast icons include:
- Russell Brand as Arthur in Arthur
- Jackie Chan as Mr. Miyagi in Karate Kid

There are some who will throw their arms up and say, "But what about Heath Ledger's Joker? Can't we accept Edward Norton over Eric Bana as Bruce Banner (Hulk)? And I think we all enjoyed Al Pacino as Tony Montana in Scarface...that was a remake of an icon."

Well played, well played. But as with any one-sided argument, there tend to be exceptions. But what's more are the patterns formed by the exceptions. I called them: the Icon Rules.
Rule #1: If a character is widely accepted as many different actors, so their supporting cast may change as well. This applies to movies such as Batman and James Bond. Batman's incarnations include Michael Keaton, Adam West, Val Kilmer, Christian Bale, and George Clooney. And in such, we allow Christian Bale to have his own adversary in Joker, and do not hold a standard of Nicholson's Joker to Ledger. And Q and Money Penny do not have to hold true because Connery is gone and we accept Craig, but only because it took us Lazenby, Moore, Dalton, and Brosnan to get there. (I reference again Silence of Lambs. Perhaps Moore would have been an acceptable Starling had Hannibal Lector been portrayed by someone other than Anthony Hopkins?)
Rule #2: Reboots are not remakes. Reboots are these ridiculous exceptions which hold the idiom: "if it was made within the last 5 years and didn't do as well as expected, we can do it again before it goes stale." Films like Hulk, The Fantastic Four, Spiderman. Because we have yet to fully invoke the icon-presence of the character, we can accept others as trying again. Kind of like being a pinch-hitter: the pre-madonna pitchers got their chance, but frankly, we think you can do it better without getting hurt (in the figurative, career-wise way).
Rule #3: What do you mean that's a remake? If a majority of the world exists blissfully ignorant of the original, then remakes are acceptable. Perhaps even necessary. Without a strong cult following, and the likelihood of seeing the film outside of a film history class at close to zero, then remakes of iconic figures are allowed and perhaps encouraged.
Rule #4: It's foreign. Think....The Departed. Let Me In. The Ring. It's even better if you can change the name to make it nearly unable to find out there exists an original. Hollywood has some belligerent rule that it has the right to make anything itself. The characters were created, shaped, and accepted in a country other than our own, therefore creating them in a world with a different language and look tends to work with a mild respect for the first. We're not trying to do it better, we're just trying to make it more accessible to our audience.

With all the grandeur of "hope for Hollywood," I recognize that the opinions stated above are not always widely accepted. Many respect the process of character transmutation and live by the stigma of "making a character one's own," which is undeniably respectable. But the base factor of the cinematic icon, the truth of reinvention and re-imagination, the only real instances when it DOES NOT and WILL NOT work, is when the actor and character become synonymous in the filmic world.
I return to Freddy Krueger/Robert Englund.
They equal each other, mark each other, they made each other. Englund's career is solely important as an actor because of Krueger. While he can go and play many a role, embrace many an endeavor (often well), he is recognized as Krueger and Krueger as Englund.
Principle Icons that will inevitably end in tragedy should a remake occur include:
Snake Plisskin from Escape from New York
Duckie from Pretty in Pink
Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High
Pee Wee Herman from Pee Wee's Big Adventure & TV
John McClane from Die Hard
Ripley from Alien

I have accepted and understand that hope does not exist for these Icons of Cinema to be remade. All will continue to smile politely and say "Why yes, (Insert actors name here) did make that role their own," however, we will never truly accept them. They will be constantly compared to the original, definitely ridiculed by die-hard fans, and inevitably deemed a lesser-version of the former. Frankly, I don't know why an actor would want to portray an "Icon". But they keep on trying.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trailer Comment Weekly, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

The much-anticipated trailer was unleashed on the universe last week to much excitement and hoopla (that week the final volume of the graphic novel series the film is based on was also announced). So without further ado (if you haven’t seen it yet):

And now, the reactions!

Dax Schaffer:

You mean, "Finally, a Michael Cera film worth watching." It seems like with both this and "Kick Ass," we've gone full circle back to "Mystery Men," instead of the continuously serious takes on super-hero stories. I welcome the sillyness, because the concept of a super hero always has been slightly silly. But I am not sure if I can accept these films as intellectual parody, of just an offshoot way of continuing to monopolize on the super-hero movie industry. Looks fun, but is there anything about these movies to say what Mystery Men didn't already say about super heroes way back when? I do rather like the visual aesthetic though, nice to see someone going full-throttle with the visual iconography of an actual comic book.

Nicola Balkind:

Could it be? Are we about to witness a film where Michael Cera plays a character other than George Michael from Arrested Development? Perhaps not, but Scott Pilgrim definitely looks to have some balls! Edgar Wright's direction looks to empower the film with his signature dark yet colourful frenetic energy. There's a certain lack of pretense in combining comic book devices with mobile camerawork where pows, thwacks, and thuds abound. A strong first trailer -- let's hope they don't give too much away in the full-length previews that follow. Perfect as a stand-alone teaser; I'm convinced!

Catie Moyer:

Comic Book Madness. Pow. Konk. Wham. But C.U.s of Michael Cera throwing brow-furrowed punches make me grimace. He looks very young in this, must be the hair. But hope remains! Edgar Wright is sure balance comedy and action. I already love Adam West Batman take on the action sequences!

Evan Koehne:

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is an appropriate title. Cera's voice is a little wimpy. Lee O'Malley, the writer, should get rich and famous off of this, which he deserves. Long Live Scott Pilgrim no matter what medium you discover him in!

Steven Ray Morris:
Currently I am on a Scott Pilgrim high and watching this trailer was exhilarating from the first frame ‘til the last. I understand the trailer is more marketed towards the general public not the comic book toting, videogame on the brain folks who have fallen in love with Bryan O’Malley’s graphic novel series. With that said, I trust Edgar Wright to deliver his third winner.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World comes out in theaters everywhere August 13th, 2010. Get your quarters ready!

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World on IMDB

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing Desk?

The answer: because Linda Woolverton cannot write Lewis Carroll's characters, or think of any new dialogue.

In the aftermath of watching the new Alice in Wonderland, and the purpose-driven characters with morals and desires (yeah, this is NOT Carroll's Wonderland), we made a list for Mr. Burton.

(2010) Tim Burton's 6 Impossible Things Before Breakfast:
(1) Do not cast Johnny Depp in the film.
(2) Do not cast Helena Bonham Carter in the film.
(3) Do not use Danny Elfman to score the film.*
(4) Get out of Disney's armpit.
(5) Stop being cute-quirky, like a rubber duckie that's pink instead of yellow. Ducks are yellow, stop trying to be pink!
(6) Stop making adaptations.

I miss the days of Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, and Beetlejuice. There was something more...pure about them.
That's all for now.
I'm looking forward to Frankenweenie. It may be a remake, but it's HIS remake.

*Please note I have profound love and respect for the talents of Depp, Carter, and Elfman. I just want to see Burton try to work without them for a change.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Wolfman's Claws: A Rebuttle.

*WARNING: This post includes some spoilers as well as prolific, overstated sarcasm*

Visual Effects? Visual Effects? I am mildly appalled. Is this all we care about anymore? Have we become so anesthetized to big budget that we no longer appreciate the base wonder of a conventional horror film?

I want to take a trip back to the 1930s. Specifically 1931, the release of Tod Browning's Dracula. I still consider this one of the scariest films of all time, and it's because it breaks into that realm of horror so often forgotten in today's films. The slow rise of Bela Lugosi from his tomb, the quiet seduction of all your senses via fog, full moons, and wolf howls so you're easily snapped by the vampire's bite. It's that classic, conventional treastise we've made with those old horror films to not spark an immediate reaction that make us jump and squirm, but create a lasting atmosphere, an ambiance, that makes us pause before we enter a dark corridor.

So, ten years later, the original Wolfman was released and adopted the same style and tone as its monster movie predecessors. Heavy shadows, fog, dark woods, mysterious gypsy curses, and a story that proves ultimately superficial to the overall fact that we're dealing with an exploitation, of sorts, of the supernatural. But we still watch, entertained, because we enjoy the spooky thrill.

Might I add both films were Universal releases.

Now, you are probably rolling your eyes right now. You're shrugging off my exploration and reverence for those which came before because it's 2010. These things don't scare us anymore. We are scared by the horrific nature of a murder. The jumps and frights of blood splashing on a camera lens. The unexpected assault on our senses when we have a close-up of a neck being ripped open. However, I've come to find that kind of thing commonplace now. Visual effects may have made this Wolfman more modernly accessable, but c'mon. We substitute CGI bears because they kinda look real enough and god forbid we have a real angry bear on set. It's not like we have trainers for these things. Let's not be bothered by liability forms when we can just pretend a bear exists and add it in later. Yes, we're all so happy for that kind of visual effect.

I believe a serious risk was taken by Johnson and company, because they didn't compromise the original for a modernized bastardization. So easily could we accept something dry and overtold as long as it looks brilliant. Costs a lot of money. Directed by James Cameron. Sorry, wrong topic.

Now here we have an original story of a man who's lost his brother to a mysterious wolflike entity. Examining the gypsy camp to find out more about this monster, the man is bitten, infected, and wrought with the overwhelming task of understanding his past to overcome his a werewolf. The dry, incosequential investigator, Detective Abberline, is not the bad ass detective (I'm sorry to all of you who expected Agent Smith part four), but a narrative device simply used to move Lawrence Talbot's (Del Toro) story forward. Would the suspense have been building as strongly had he not been chased back to the Blackmoor estate? The story isn't The's The Wolfman.

The mild sense of romance surrounding Gwen (Blunt) and her inevitable rise to heroine seems more a sense of love transference than true love. Love for the man who came to your aide when your would be husband is mauled by a supernatural entity would result in a obligatory adoration, to get a little psychological with it. She would feel somewhat responsible for what is happening to him, and thus thrust herself into a position where she may help him, and according the gypsy elders, that's love. I consider the fact reconciled.

Sure, the film has moments of campy conventionality: Sir John Talbot (Hopkins) ripping off his shirt post-transformation (it's the werewolf shirt vs. skins match of the century), and the fact that Gene Simmons provides the werewolf's howl. But the fact remains, this film revers its predecessor instating a nostalgia most adaptations cast aside for "Hollywoodization," and utilizes the advancements film techonology can offer to enhance a monster movie classic. The jump out of your seat scares and truely haunting imagery displays a wistfulness for the old school craft of horror. And I feel that many people knock this film because of the regard they hold for the actors (Del Toro, Hopkins, Weaving) and not for the subdued nature of the characters in favor a driving story.

Unfortunately, people go for names now, and hold certain expectations based on those names. That's going to disappoint, because this film is what truely classic horror was and still could be (as it proves), but it seems we just don't care anymore.

I'm going to see Scorcese's new film Shutter Island tonight. Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Leo DeCaprio, Michelle Williams.
Fuck, I just want to go see a thriller about a mental institution.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

People Looking At Art (a photo series)

Not really film related...sort of...anyway read onward!

As I got swallowed up by the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) while in New York City this past December I noticed a lot of people taking photographs of paintings...I found this a bit odd (although I soon became just as guilty). Why do we feel the need to photograph paintings? Are we going to print it huge at home and use it as a masterpiece doppelganger? Proof to our more skeptical friends? "Yes I did see the Les Demoiselles d'Avignon!! And here's the photograph to prove it!"

Anyway, I took it open myself to take photos of the people either taking photos of art, simply looking at it or even taking photos with the paintings!

Take a look...















I tried to come up with witty phrases for each one, but I'm not that funny and you guys and gals can do better. GO!