In college, I took a course in the history of rock and roll. While studying the music and musical influence of Elvis Presley, the professor brought up an interesting theory that was Elvis passed away at the right time to be well-remembered and regarded. We never got to see Elvis get too far past his prime and a shadow of his former self, relegated to the back pages of the tabloids.
This same theory applies to actor James Dean, who only made three films during his short career in Hollywood. Each of those three films is fairly well-regarded by scholars and critics, though it can be argued this his most iconic film was his last, Rebel Without A Cause.
I first saw it years ago on VHS and while it started an entirely new subgenre of film, I’m not necessarily sure this is a film that holds up all that well or is really as good as its iconic status would have you believe. Watching it again this time, I was fascinated by the performance of Dean as Jim Stark and seeing actor Jim Backus in a role other Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island. But I couldn’t help but think the film seemed awfully melodramatic in parts and like it was trying too hard. Continue reading
A lot of critics will cite fictional characters such as Tony Soprano or Walter White as being some of pop culture’s first fully embraced anti-heroes. But could it be that audiences were embracing anti-heroes before Tony or Walter came onto the scene?
Watching The Music Man this time around, I was stuck by how when we first meet Harold Hill, he’s a bit of an anti-hero himself. The first song establishes that Hill is a con-man, who has possibly had several other assumed identities before becoming the purveyor of boys’ band, and that he’s ruining the territory for the other salesmen. When he hears that Iowa might a challenge or an untapped opportunity, Hill decides to stop in River City and run his boys’ band con on the town.
He does this by creating and problem and then attempting to solve it via the goods only he can provide — in this case musical instruments. Watching as Hill avoids providing his credentials to various officials through the play is amusing and shows how quickly he can think on his feet. But then his attempted courting of Marion Paroo, the local librarian and piano teacher also shows how slick and savvy Hill really is when he puts his mind to it. Continue reading
Caught up on a couple of movies that I saw in theaters back upon their initial release over the past couple of days. Some of them I’ve revisited since the theatrical screening, others I hadn’t.
Back to the Future, Part III
The fact that the AFI Movie Club list never got around to including Back to the Future still sticks in my craw. Back to the Future is a far more essential film than, let’s say, Dirty Dancing or Parenthood. Nothing against either of those film, but they don’t quite entertain me in the same way that Back to the Future does.
Of course, I said the same thing after rewatching Taxi Driver last summer. (Let’s face it, if you’re picking a movie for a rainy afternoon, it’s rarely going to be Taxi Driver).
All that brings us to Back to the Future, Part III, the final installment in the trilogy. I’ll go ahead and say that I love Back to the Future, Part II. The travels to three different time periods and the consequences of time travel are entertaining as all get out to me. I know that I’m in the minority on this, but I don’t care. I love the heck out of Part II and don’t care who knows. Continue reading
Like many people my age, I looked forward to watching The Wizard of Oz each year on CBS. The movie would dominate discussion on the playground the next day and you felt like you were missing something if you hadn’t watched it and couldn’t participate in the conversation.
But before I watched the movie for the inauguration of the American Film Institute’s Movie Club, I’d say it’s been at least two decades since I watched the movie. It’s not for lack of access — no longer must I wait for it to show up on CBS or one of the Turner movie channels since we long ago added it to our DVD collection. But it’s a film that has become such a part of the tapestry of our popular culture that it’s easy to feel lately, even if “lately” is twenty or so years ago.
I won’t say that watching it this time felt like it was new. But, it felt like I was discovering an old friend again.*
* A friend that will probably get a lot of viewing once Shortcake discovers the film. She wasn’t engaged with the film yet and I distracted her during some of the “scarier” moment with the Wicked Witch of the West pulling her shenanigans. Continue reading
Time again for Top Ten Tuesday hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.
This week, we have an adaptation from novel to screen freebie. It’s easy to say the book is better and in many cases it is. But there are times when the screen adaptation ends up being more enjoyable than the source material. Here are a few:
- The Godfather by Mario Puzo. Given the iconic status of the movie version, it’d be easy to assume the book is awesome too. After all, Puzo did adapt his novel for the silver screen. And yet, reading the book, I wasn’t overly impressed with it in quite the same way as I was with the movie.
- Jaws by Peter Benchley. Another iconic film that you’d assume the source material is awesome. The screen versions hones the book down to its essentials and it’s much better for it. The book has so many unlikeable characters that by about halfway through it, I was rooting for the shark to just eat everyone already and be done with it.
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom. If you love the movie, avoid this book at all costs. Forrest goes to outer space, is lost on a deserted island, and becomes good friends with a space chimp. Oh, and the reason Jenny loves him in the book has less to do with the size of his heart and more the size of something else…
- The Spy Who Loved Me by Ian Fleming. Even Fleming knew this was a terrible book. When he sold the screen rights to the Bond books, one of his demands was that while they could use the title from this book, the book itself couldn’t be adapted. And it’s a good thing since this one is a first-person narrated story by a woman, trapped in a hotel with some killers until Bond shows up in the last few pages to save the day.
- Planet of the Apes by Pierre Boulle. The movie takes the basic premise and runs with it in an entirely different direction. Thank heavens. This one tries hard to have a twist, but it’s so silly.
- The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R..R. Tolkien. Before Fellowship of the Ring hit theaters, I joined a Barnes and Nobel on-line read-a-long of the books, hoping this was the time I could slog through them all. I left the group when some participants were posting long diatribes that the movies were leaving out small details from the books and, thus, ruining them. Again, this was BEFORE the movies came out. I’ve tried hard to enjoy the books but find them a bit of a slog. The movies eliminate page upon page of walking around and simply get us there.
This week’s Top Ten Tuesday (hosted by the Broke and the Bookish) takes a break from the printed page and looks to the silver screen with the top ten favorite movies. Here are ten of my favorite movies. (One criteria I use is if I surf past the movie, I may stop to watch from whatever point I drop in until the end). Continue reading
Musing Mondays is a weekly book-related meme that I participate in on a sporadic basis. This week’s random question asks: Name a book that was turned into a movie, and completely desecrated (in your opinion).
Being a literary snob, I can think of a lot of books that were much better than the movies. My first though was Jurassic Park, which removed several plot lines that drove some of the tension of the last half of the novel. But I don’t necessarily think that desecrated the original novel so much as it disappointed me.
I guess if I’m going to go with desecrated (and I hate to do this because I love Ron Howard) I’d have to say Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I think this movie had a lot to compete with beyond just the original book but also the beloved animated special. And, quite frankly, I think less is more when it comes to the Grinch. Expanding the material to 90 minutes from 30 didn’t do it any favors.