Monday, January 4, 2010

My 2009 Movie Odyssey - Part XIX

Benny & Joon (1993)
Johnny Depp channels Buster Keaton in this funny film with many memorable characters.

Slap Shot (1977)
While the three Hanson Brothers are loads of fun to watch, the rest of the movie is pretty flat and it would have been nice to see a little more actual hockey being played on the ice instead of all the constant brawling.

My Sister’s Keeper (2009)
While a mostly compelling story that asks some interesting questions, the constant narrator shifts were silly and the big revelation at the end was unnecessary, felt contrived, and undercut much of the emotional impact of the first hour and a half.

The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)
This is the tragic tale of a movie producer who attracts people through the force of his winning personality and then betrays them.

The Front Page (1931)
There are a few laughs and the director tries valiantly to do interesting things with the camera in this early talkie, but the film is uneven with many dull moments to accompany the fun ones.

The Prisoner of Zenda (1937)
This fun, thrilling swashbuckler features several characters that are so noble and upright that there is no way this movie would be made today given Hollywood’s obsession with flawed heroes.

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
The feisty widow, Mrs. Muir, moves into a haunted house and strikes up a relationship with the cantankerous ghost who haunts it, providing a myriad of entertaining scenes as they work out how to coexist.

Brigadoon (1954)
This colorful musical features a couple amusing musical numbers but is a little thin in the area of plot.

The Majestic (2001)
Jim Carrey goes serious as a blacklisted screenwriter with amnesia, but everyone seems to be trying so hard to make a movie with Significance, it falls short of the Preston Sturges-esque comedy it could have been.

Walk the Line (2005)
Reese Witherspoon is so engaging as June Carter Cash that she steals every scene she is in and the rest of the film is cold and empty when she is off-screen.

Coming up next: a couple films from 1939 and a couple more from Ray Harryhausen.


Sapience said...

Just one note about My Sister's Keeper--both of the problems you mention are actually maintained from the book. The ending was the one major flaw on the part of the book, but the change of POV worked better there (though there were still a few places that it was problematic).

Herch said...

While having multiple narrators works in books (and is not uncommon) in film it is jarring and it took me out of the moment (especially considering every screenwriting manual out there insists that narration is of the devil and should be avoided at all costs).

Sapience said...

oh, I know. But the multiple narrators is perhaps the defining feature of the book, and what makes it good, and what any reader of the book would be expecting from a "faithful" adaptation. So I can understand why a screenwriter might make the bad choice to have different narrators.

Herch said...

I've gone through an evolution of sorts when it comes to what I view as a good adaptation. At first I was of the opinion that the only way to truly do justice to a book is to do a moving pictures version of the book. If it's in the book, it should not be left out of the movie, and in no way should anything be added to the movie that was not in the book. But the more I studied movies, the more I came to understand some of the differences between books and movies, and what works better for each medium. Inner turmoil and anguish over a difficult choice works much better in a book because the author can get inside and character's head in a way that a movie cannot. Conversely, a sword fight is not nearly as thrilling on the page as it is when you are actually watching it play out. So I have come to applaud those screenwriters who are trying to make the best possible movie, using the novel as more of a jumping off place for the movie than a stringent guideline that absolutely must not be deviated from.

Forrest Gump is an interesting example of the latter. The movie takes the premise of the book - a man who is borderline retarded lives through the major events of the latter half of the 20th century, encountering multiple historical figures along the way - and some of the major characters - Mama, Jenny, Bubba, and Lieutenant Dan - but then goes and does its own thing with the material, creating something entirely different out of the same building blocks.

Every time I read a book, I think about how I would turn it into a movie. Sometimes (and it seems to happen more and more as I get older) I find I'm mentally changing different elements of the story in order to make a better movie, sometimes going so far as to mentally redo entire sequences to make what I think would be a better movie. I've even though of changing Tolkien. The fall of Numenor could make a pretty good movie, but if I were making it, Ar-Pharazon, the last king of Numenor, would become one of the Nazgul (probably the Witch King himself) instead of perishing at sea. Tolkien purists would probably be up in arms over a change like that, but frankly, I like my version better than Tolkien's.