Saturday Miscellany — 12/14

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

    One of those ever-so-rare weeks that has nothing new I want to read. Or, my TBR pile stays the same dangerous size.

Kickstarter: A Phantom Tollbooth Documentary

On Twitter a little bit ago, I saw a link to a Kickstarter for a documentary about The Phantom Tollbooth and tossed out my plan for today’s post. The Phantom Tollbooth is one of those books that was so formative for me that it seems like I need a better word to describe its effect on me.

My impulse was to throw up a post about its impact on my life/thinking, but that’d take too long (and I’d have to reread the book, and I’m behind as it is). If you’ve read it, you probably understand — and if you haven’t, just take my word for it and go read it. Even as an adult, it’s one of those that contains enough that a kid won’t get, but an adult will love. Think early Loony Tunes shorts. I read it with my kids a couple of years back — and it was as good (if not better) then, than it was when I read it a couple of decades ago (for the first of many times).

Basically, I’m excited for this one. I hope it gets all the funding it needs.

Ideally, you’ll see the video embedded below. But wordpress doesn’t seem to want to display that (or at least not in preview or edit mode, so I don’t know if it’ll show or not. If it doesn’t, click the link back in my first sentence to go watch it.

Saturday Miscellany – 7/20

Odds ‘n ends over the week about books and reading that caught my eye. You’ve probably seen some/most/all of them, but just in case:

Dusted Off: So Have You Seen this Fan-Made Hunger Games Clip?

I don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but if you’ve read The Hunger Games you really, really should–it almost perfectly captures one of the best scenes in the book. If you haven’t read it, and are considering it (and you really should), stay away from the clip ‘cuz it’ll ruin one of the best scenes in the book.

Other than the fact they got Rue’s ethnicity wrong…can’t think of a problem with this. I’d gladly fork over $10 to buy a ticket to this group’s version of the whole book.

Watching this made me realize one major problem with making a movie of book: How does Hollywood expect to do this flick and get a PG-13?

Dusted Off: Really only posting this to keep up my quota

Watched The Water Horse, this weekend with the family, which garnered very mixed reviews. TLomL called it “cute” and “a fun little movie.” The rest of us couldn’t disagree more. Whyfore the difference? The rest of us read the book last year before it opened in theaters, (one of our nigh unto unbreakable House Rules is “read the book first”) and the experience coupled with the trailers we’d been enjoying switched it from the “Get thee to a Multiplex” list to “Eh, maybe on video.” And we almost didn’t do that, but in the end, Frodo’s desire to compare the two and the Princess’ curiosity overcame Sam’s apathy.

I fully realize that you sometimes have to alter, tweak, or change elements of a book to get the thing into a movie. Sometimes I wonder why choices are made, but I can understand it. But this wasn’t on the level of leaving Hermione’s founding S.P.E.W. out of the flick, or something on that level. This was a wholesale re-write.

Dick King-Smith’s perfectly charming kid’s book is about two kids Kirstie and Angus living in Scotland in the 1930’s with their mother and her father (their father is a merchant marine gone for months at a time). They go to the shore frequently to look for firewood, kelp (to put on their grandfather’s garden), and miscellany. One day, Angus and Kirstie find a giant “mermaid’s purse“, which our protagonist, Kirstie, decides to sneak home because she’s so curious about it. That mermaid’s purse turns out to be an egg sack for the Water Horse. The rest of the book is about the family’s struggle to feed and care for the beastie while keeping him secret. He’s moved from body of water to body of water ’til he ends up in Loch Ness, where a certain picture is taken of him in 1934. Along the way, silly Angus grows up a bit, grandfather (named ‘Grumble’ because of his personality) cheers up, Kirstie becomes more mature.

In the movie, we’re still in Scotland, but it’s in the middle of WWII, and Angus is the focus…he’s drawn to the water, yet terrified of it (for reasons to be semi-explained later). One day at the beach where he’s supposed to be playing, he finds this strange rock, which he takes home–which is a large estate, his mother is the Head Housekeeper there. The rock turns out to be an egg, from which hatches the Water Horse. The next day, a regiment (or so) of soldiers arrives to be housed at the estate while they guard the nearby Loch from German Subs. Angus recruits the help of Kirstie and the new handyman with the mysterious past (taking the job of Angus’ father) to help him keep the creature a secret. Which brings them into confrontation with the soldiers, helps Angus deal with the loss of his father and his fear of water.

Which would’ve been a fine little flick, if it didn’t claim to be based on the book. Trust the source. You thought the novel was good enough to buy the rights to…don’t mess with it. Why is this so hard for people to understand?

So, basically, if you and yours haven’t read the book–it’s a cute movie to watch with the kids. Otherwise…find something else.

By the way, I have to wonder…just what history books do the people at Walden Media read? Apparently, aside from one/both parents being separated from their kids, WWII’s a pretty magical time (maybe just in the UK). The Pevensies are whisked away to Narnia, the MacMorrow kids get a magical pet…

Dusted Off: Hasn’t the Poor Man Suffered Enough?

Poor, poor William Gibson.

It apparently wasn’t enough for Hollywood to take his groundbreaking short story, “Johnny Mnemonic,” and turn it into 1995’s Keanu Reeves’ nightmare. Nope.

Today’s SciFi Wire reports:

Hayden Christensen (Jumper) may star in a proposed film based on William Gibson’s seminal cyberpunk novel Neuromancer.

Citing an anonymous source, the site reported that Christensen would play Case,the hacker at the center of the story.

Christensen–that automaton that made people think, “You know, that Jake Lloyd wasn’t such a bad little actor…”–playing Case??!? It’s just wrong.

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.

Next thing I’ll be reading that Larry the Cable Guy has been cast as Ender Wiggin…

Dusted Off: Exceptions That Prove the Rule

I’ve wanted to read Neil Gaiman’s novels for quite some time now–really enjoyed the first edition of Don’t Panic, but have never been able to get past page 30 of one of his novels. But I figured after the great experience I had with Stardust, I’d be able to plow my way through the novel. Honestly, not sure I needed the movie, I was hooked almost right away by the style–I’d probably just picked the wrong books before.

But anyway, I’m a shade under a third of the way through the book and already I’m pretty glad I watched the movie first, because I might’ve gotten pretty darn annoyed with the radical changes already made (although I must say that on the whole, they were necessary to get a well-made movie on the screen–this isn’t a book that allows for an easy adaptation). Still, it’s another case of the book being better than the movie.

Which got me to thinking…which books were worse than their movie adaptations? Surely there’ve been some. Off the top of my head I sorta think that Altman’s M*A*S*H was superior to the novel by Hooker (if only for the fact that it cut out all the Trapper John as Jesus nonsense). Some movies are just about as good as the books/stories they were based on, some are hardly recognizable…that’s practically a cliche to point out. But I know there are some movies that do a better job telling their story than the book did. Just can’t think of any at the moment. Can you?