Thursday, July 29, 2010

I am Saphira, and you are my rider!

Hello James. How very nice to see you. Narnia: one of the well made fantasy epics.

Movies and books are entirely different genres. One must understand this in order to avoid going through life disappointed at every turn. One must also take it as a given that the books will invariably be better than the movies. The only exception to this is in situations where the book was written after, and based on, the movie. If book to movie conversions are sometimes disappointing, then movie to book is nearly always a tragedy of epic proportions.

But we did not come here to discuss my waning faith in the quality of children's literature. No. We came to discuss the undervalued successes of many book based movies. I have noticed an interesting trend, and it is that which I wish to address.

It seems to me that there are now only two parties of people. 1)Those in which long years of TV, movies, video games, and very little creative exercise of the mind have infested the imagination with a degenerative disease, destroying and crumbling all ability to think for one's self in creative matters. 2) Those who have become connoisseurs, so to speak, of seeing their favorite books come to life, only to tear them down with every minuscule imperfection.

With this first group, plot becomes less and less of a factor. All they really want is a lot of big exciting explosions, monsters, or sweet CG stuff. They can't come up with things like that for themselves, and that's why they don't read. Their brains have been permanently crippled into depending on others for the good stuff, and so they're extremely excited when they get to go on a great ride in a super effects movie. Thus, they are unable to care how hollow a movie becomes, as long as it looks fabulous.

Rumor has it that Peter Jackson is finally producing the Hobbit, and that they want James for Bilbo. Please be true! I've wanted this movie for years now! And I think James would be amazing for it.

The second group can imagine for themselves, though with varying levels of success. Some are better at epic than others. But they all can. And so, in their minds they already have a great picture of what the lands and the people and the creatures look like. If the movie version ends up being cooler than theirs, then they are impressed. If it isn't, then they are not. At least as far as the visual goes. However, the problem with this group lies not in these effects, but with their inability to recognize that the plot, and all the details, simply can not be kept exactly the same. And because of this, no movie is good enough. This is wrong. That is wrong. "Over all I hated it."

Once upon a time I belonged to this second group. I have, if I may say so myself, the ability to imagine things quite impressively. In fact, I sometimes hate it when fantasy novels include illustrations, because they just aren't as good as in my head, and thus make me feel less interested in the story. Though it really depends on the artist. But, as I was saying, this ability caused me to see most action movies with something less than feverish excitement. I get my kicks through books. And while I would take this kind of disappointment over that which befalls the first group of people, I was still constantly in anguish over the movies that they made from my favorite books.

Over time, however, I have gradually slipped away into the beginnings of a third group: Those that can appreciate both the books and the movies, simply by separating them from each other.

Dumbledore is on the brink of death, and still he manages a wicked awesome cyclone of flame, thus defeating thousands of re-animated corpses. Awesome.

It officially happened after seeing the midnight premiere of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Several of the people I was with came out of it unimpressed, while I, who normally tear movies apart, was quite pleased with it. So I had to do some thinking. It was then that I understood the true scope of the differences between books and movies. Not in comparing the plot lines, or the details, but in the genres themselves.

Because movies are audio/visual, they can bring an entirely new dimension to a story. But also because they are a/v, the perspectives in them are completely restricted to third person, and are only partially omniscient. You can see and hear everyone from your own view, and not the character's, but you can't hear their thoughts unless someone is narrating over. And that can easy go amiss. Far too easily. Even when it is badly done, most directors have the sense to not narrate entire movies.

This, I think, is the key difference. For certain plot devices in a book, it is truly necessary to receive the entire story through the brain of at least one of the characters. Non-omniscient third person point of view lacks any sort of depth. And depth is what makes a book worth reading in the first place.

But non-omniscient third is practically all that a movie can be. So, there are really only two choices... change the plot around to convey the necessary inner debates properly, OR literally narrate the book as the sound to the movie. And let's face it, no one is going to go see a 36 hour movie, which is what it would end up being if the book were simply read aloud.

There are many other differences and difficulties with the conversion of a story from one media format to another. Let us suffice it to say that there is no possible way to keep it exactly and perfectly the same. Even if every plot element, every detail, every teeny tiny thing about it were true to the book, the movie would STILL be lacking. Mainly, as I said, because of the missing inner monologue.

Cue emo face #462.

I use Twilight as a prime example. Nearly everything in the movie is quite accurate. Why, then, was it so awful? Because they did exactly what I just talked about. I watched the movie having not read the books, and because of the missing inner commentary, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. My sister had to explain the entire thing to me, so that I could follow it.

So I pose a question: would you rather have the plot changed ever so slightly, or would you rather have the movie flop so badly that half of the videos on youtube are spoofs of it?

Give movies like Harry Potter, Narnia, and Lord of the Rings some credit, then. Because, as movies, they are very good. As movies, they have all of the necessary elements to create a great ride. As movies, they are well constructed, well acted, and well directed. Although I may never forgive Alfonso for those random whomping willow scenes in the Prisoner of Askaban.

The effects were cool, but the plot and the acting were... well, for want of a better word, lacking.

This is not to say that one should immediately accept all book to movie interpretations as ok. Some are impossibly bad. Twilight, as I noted before. Percy Jackson. The effects were great, but the plot was so basic, so simple, so mutilated, so utterly commonplace and dull that the effects didn't much matter. They took one tiny two page portion of the story in the book, and stretched it into the full feature movie. No joke. The getting of the pearls in the book happened in like a minute, and some under the sea lady gave them to him. That's it. I could devote pages to how poorly it was executed. But this article says it better than I: "Boldly produced and vivid throughout, “Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief” is a clunky kid-sized epic, able to conjure colossal acts of Greek myth wonderment, but never brave enough to shut its pie hole and let the audience process the screen magic."
Amen. A-MEN.
The Time Traveler's Wife was lame too. Though I have a feeling part of that blame lies in the actual book.

Can we say "scale model"?

But the cream of the crop, the ultimate horror, the official worst fantasy book made into a movie interpretation has to be Eragon. They had a terrible combination of trying to be detail accurate, and trying to change things to fit the movie style. It blew up in their face. Not to mention that John Malkovich should never, ever, try to be a serious, intimidating, mysterious magical warrior. Not gonna work. Ever. But seriously, that movie was pitiful beyond words. The ONLY redeeming value it had was the fact that Brom is Jeremy Irons, who is Scar in Lion King. And I have a soft place for him after seeing him in the French and Saunders Harry Potter spoof as Snape.

This is where I end. Because I was so depressingly horrified at the Eragon movie that I might ramble on for several more hours if I'm not careful.

So I obviously don't approve of every movie ever based on a book. But most of them deserve a fair chance. Most of them are good, as movies. We just need to remember that the movie is not the book. Use two separate grading scales, and you should find yourself much happier, and more satisfied.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Karma, fate, and Harry Potter

This week I had a flash of genius inspiration.

Have you ever wondered why Harry Potter had to have so many different directors? Why couldn't they have just found David Yates in the first place, and saved the franchise from pain in the prisoner of azkaban?

I've realized that it's something akin to karma, or fate, or whatever you want to call it. I shall explain.

The different movie styles follow Harry's life. Seriously, they do. It's almost uncanny.

Let us start with Chris Columbus, who did 1 and 2. With John Williams on the music, and the cute smallness of the kids, and the warm fuzzies and cheese of Chris's directing style we successfully symbolize Harry's early wizarding life.

Sure there's a bit of danger, a bit of drama, a bit of overwhelmingness, but mostly it's just cool. He has friends for the first time, and he has a place where he belongs. The movies aren't very epic, but they're very thorough and book accurate, also relating to Harry's need to suddenly learn everything about a new world. Details, details, details.

So hands together for the warm fuzzies and nostalgia of movies one and two. And for Harry's successful integration into a world where he belongs.
The next section is the third and fourth movie, done by Alfonso Cuaron and Mike Newell respectively. This is the time in Harry's life where things get awkward. Way awkward. Cho shows up. A long lost godfather and convicted felon shows up. Voldemort comes back! Harry has a huge fight with his best friend and doesn't talk to him for half the school year. He has no idea what really happened to him/will happen. Everything about it is in transition.

Similarly, the movies are a bit, well, off kilter. They aren't bad movies. They're just... not very good as adaptations. Some things in books just need to be changed in order for movies to make sense at all. But NOT some of the things that these guys changed. For one, the werewolf looking like he just left a concentration camp. Hairless, bony, and weird. For another thing, Alfonso's random obsession with the whomping willow. He shows it like a billion times changing seasons. I know it's supposed to be all artistic and stuff, but this isn't an indie film festival. The long hair? Not so much. And cutting out interesting details in order to make the dragon chase scene like seven BILLION years long? No. (Although I must admit I love how very awkward Ron's dress robes are.)

Long story short, the movies are both awkward and transitional, just as Harry's time at school is.

Finally we arrive at David Yates. His style is to change some of the details around in order to make it severely epic. Somewhat the opposite of Chris, but not in a bad way. Both have their place. And in this case, it works.

Because just at this time Harry's life starts to become really crazy. People dying left and right. (I think Rowling had a bit of a killing her characters fetish) Scary teachers torturing him. Horcruxes. Dumbledore's lessons and eventual demise at the hands of someone he thought he could count on. Then finding out the real truth behind said demise. We got death, torture, and a basically impossible mission to destroy the world's scariest dark wizard ever. Man. Two words: Epic. NUTS.

Thus David's style fits. He starts to make the movies a bit darker. A tiny bit scarier. More action. More drama. More effects. And somewhat better acting than we started with, although not very much in certain cases. Much more in others. Basically, it follows the path of Harry's now distressing and dark life.

And thus we see that the pattern of directors could not have been done in any other order. It was decreed by the fates to symbolize the life that is Harry Potter. The journey he took in making the world safer. The absolute fabulosity that is J. K. Rowling's incredible imagination.

Coincidence? Or fate? You be the judge.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Subject: Public Transportation. So many countries in the world advocate it. Mostly because it's supposedly more cost efficient, and uses a lot less oil. Greenie tree huggers also support this idea.

Question: Is it really that big of a deal?

Now, I do understand the Rush hour traffic part. Fifty people riding on one bus in the morning to work, and in the afternoon from work will obviously use a lot less gas, and emit a lot less CO2 into the air than fifty separate cars all driving on the same road at the same time. That totally makes sense. One vehicle versus fifty.

BUT, busses don't just run twice a day, do they? And people don't just use them to go to work and back. People use busses and subways and all manner of public transport to do all sorts of stuff. They need to run to the store, or go to the mall with friends, or visit the doctor's office. But not everyone needs to buy groceries at the exact same time. And not everyone goes shopping with friends at the exact same time. In fact, stores would be unbearable if they did.

So, because they don't all go at the same time, the only way to make a bus system even remotely useful is to have schedules, where certain vehicles go on certain routes at certain times a day. Some places, where busses aren't a main way to get around, only have a few stops, and a few times a day where they stop. But places that advocate more public transport have more busses running at more times in more places.

Which brings me to the question... If you have fifty busses in a town running in a circular route over and over and over again literally ALL DAY, is it really still better than people using their own cars, or does the constant repetition and non-stop driving offset the bonuses that are gotten during rush hour?

I'm not actually advocating one answer or the other. I really just want to know. But I'm phrasing it like this because every other thing I've ever read about public transport is all sorts of googly eyed about the environmental benefits, and I really honestly wonder if they even know what they're talking about.

Because when people run to the store in their car, they drive down, turn the car off to go in, drive home, and then turn the car off again. Yes there are lots of people doing it at once, and that does use a lot of fuel. But when you take a bus at a non-rush hour time, there's what, like five people on it at any given time anyway? Sometimes more, sometimes less, but it's only really full at certain times of day. And then, when the bus drops you off at the store, it doesn't turn off while you're in there and wait for you. It keeps on driving round and round, bringing other people to and from the same store ALL DAY.

So the constant driving is one factor. Another one is the time. With a bus or a train, there are loads of stops, because obviously not everyone is going to the same place at the same time. With stop and go motion, it can take an hour to ride the bus to some place that would literally only take 20 minutes to drive to in a car. (Walmart in Orem from BYU *cough cough*)

Does the benefit of carrying a few more people at a time actually offset the longer drive? During Rush hour, yes. As I said, when you've got the whole bus full, and they're all going to the same general area at the same general time, then of course that's going to be better than having as many cars all trying to drive there together. But when it's three people going to walmart, and another two going on to UVU, is the system justified? Is it really better?

On a different note, I realize this is a college town, and there are tons of people who don't have cars. I was one of them for 4 years. And we would have been stuck without food quite a few times without the busses. But I'm not really talking about the overall benefit of having a bus system. I'm just wondering if using them over personal cars is really any more environmentally friendly.

And, like I said before, I'm not actually advocating that they are or aren't. I'm simply posing the questions that keep occurring to me. Seriously, if anyone knows stats or something, I would be interested to know.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What you can learn from texting

Today while texting with a friend, I learned, or rather realized, something very interesting. As people, we generally look back on older times and constantly talk about how much easier we have it nowadays. With a/c and cars, and computers and the internet, and higher minimum wages, and everything, honestly we've got it really good. Those people who don't realize this, and still complain, are just ungrateful little whelps who ought to be taught a lesson.

So yeah, we've got so many things better than back then. Especially compared to the pioneers who crossed the plains and settled the western half of this country. I've always thought this, and most people agree with me. But that isn't what I realized or learned.

I learned how very much people in our time are focused on physical comfort, and how none of that is even applicable to our present situations. Maybe people, especially when discussing religious topics, feel like they could never do what the early religious pioneers did. Could you be Martin Luther and nail those theses to the door, even when you knew you'd probably get killed for it?

Could you be tarred and feathered, and not shout out in agony that you were wrong about your beliefs and to please go away and leave your family alone?

Could you cross a wintery stretch of the Rocky mountains, freezing and starving, and not curse God for telling you to get to the other side?

The fact is, not many people now have the physical willpower to do so. It's a by gone time. BUT everyone just says "well, good thing we don't have to. I wouldn't do it." And that's the end of it. Which is entirely beside the point. Because they're right. We aren't asked to do that. We're asked to do something else, and because no one realizes it, they're failing at it even more miserably than they would have in crossing the plains.

Our challenges now a days aren't physical. They're mental.

And sometimes I feel like I'd do better if they were physical again. Not that I think I wouldn't just fall down and die, if I walked clear across the continent. I probably would. But it's so much simpler to understand.

It's a lot easier to mentally stay strong to a belief after a punch in the face, than it is after sinister manipulation and subtle peer pressure. It's not so confusing. It might be painful. It might be uncomfortable. It might be severely unpleasant. But in your head it's extremely straightforward.

Things aren't like that anymore. We have little whispers in our ears to guide us a teeny tiny way to the left or right of where we should go, and we think, 'oh, it's no big deal'. But if you keep down that trail, after a few hundred miles you could be on the other side of the continent from where you were supposed to end up.

There are shades of gray EVERYWHERE. People blurring the lines between right and wrong. Trying to tell you the fence that separates them is here instead of there. You hear that this used to be wrong, but isn't anymore, or that used to be right, but we've realized that it's not.

As if time actually changes what is right and wrong. Stupidest thought ever.
I mean, it can change how humans think, and therefore what is accepted as right or wrong. But it doesn't actually change which is which. But I digress.

As you can tell, and as you've probably experienced in your own life, things aren't so simple anymore. The mental battle against moral depravity, improper use of riches (as opposed to the trial of being poor), self-centered-ness, etc, is the most confusing thing the world has ever seen. It's honestly no wonder that so many people in the world sit and just wonder what the crap has happened to the world, and what on earth they're supposed to do about it.

So yeah, maybe we aren't cut out for crossing plains, or facing death sentences, or defying tyrants. I don't know if I could either. But I understand it. I comprehend it. It's a case of black and white.

How many of us, in this modern time, are willing to try to fight the infinitely more confusing mental battles that are waging right now?
Or do you want to just sit around still whining about physical comfort?

It takes a stronger mind to survive in these times, but you have to realize this. That is where the fight is. That's where the plains crossing is, or the nailing those theses to the door happens. Do you have the guts to cross the mental snowy mountains of doom?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Dumb, The Dumber, and the straight up coma inducingly stupid.

In honor of my 'day off, after I've finished the book I had on hold through 51 people, and with no food in my house to cook' celebration, I've decided to make a blog post on things about the world that I find to be the most a) retarded, b) hypocritical, c)utterly ridiculous, or d) all of the above. (not in any particular order)

Number 1: Japanese "graphic novels".

Graphic novels being a euphemism for comic books. I understand that there are actually cool and decent ones out there. There are some with real stories that just happen to have lots of pictures. I have no beef with pictures. I am a fan of illustrations, myself. But These good ones seem to be increasingly few and far between. There are growing numbers of these comic books where the only words on the first ten pages are 'whack', 'crunch', and 'boom'. The only redeeming line I hear about any of these is "at least it gets kids to read". Well, assuming that this can even count, which I don't know if I think it does yet, we move to the japanese comics.

Japanese comics might make sense in Japanese... but so far the only thing I've been able to tell from them is that they read backwards, as if they were still in Japanese, but while they are translated into English. Someone explain this to me, because I find it to be severely pointless, and confusing. If you are using comic books to try to get kids to read more, and better, hand them a japanese comic book and have fun trying to help them keep the reading rules straight. "Well, kids, in this English we read left to right, but in this English we read right to left." *rolls eyes*

Not to mention that there are ten thousand of them that are all exactly the same, but with different names. Like 'peach fuzz'. Why am I gonna go read an anime 'graphic novel' called peach fuzz? or "Fruits basket"? I'm not making that up. I shelve them at the library frequently.

BTW, no I don't think Strongbad is stupid. This pic is him making fun of the same thing I'm making fun of.

K, I took WAY longer explaining that than I planned. On to number 2: The NAACP

Once upon a time, things like this were necessary. People who weren't white got treated like crap for a long time. Now, however, people like the NAACP are extraordinarily unnecessary. Because we're all trying to get to a world where things like your skin color have no bearing on employment, college acceptance, or political advancement. And yet here they are, screaming about how Obama is a black president.

Guess what... if you want people to treat you like you're the same as someone else, STOP pointing out how different you are!! Dag. This is like the epitome of dunce-cap, moron activity. That's all the NAACP does. "You're not treating us fairly. LOOK AT US! WE'RE BLACK!"

Just as a side note, I have nothing against people who aren't white. That includes people from Asian or hispanic groups, or whoever else too. I have lots of friends who are 'racially diverse'. And you know something funny? The only people that I actually think about being different, and it actually occurs to me frequently, are the people who go about shouting it to the world. Go figure.

Number 3: The term "African American"

This is along the same lines as number 2. Um, most people who are considered black haven't actually even set foot in Africa for dozens of generations. Combine that with the fact that there are black skinned people from more places than just Africa. A lot of the Polynesian islands have dark inhabitants. So does Australia, with the native Aborigines. It's kind of like taking everyone who's Asian and calling them all "Chinese Americans" or even better, like taking everyone who's white, and calling them "British Americans" just because a lot of us have ancestry from there.

Why is it politically correct to call everyone with brown skin "African American", but it's politically INcorrect to call everyone who's hispanic "Mexican" or even "Mexican American"?

Number 4: On that same note, political correctness.

Honestly, I can't really go into details on this, because there's just TOO MUCH. It's absolutely retarded. But I will say this much, political correctness only serves to cultivate insecurity and arrogance.

Insecurity, because using special terms for something reinforces the idea that it's not ok to be that way. If you're short, you're short. I'm sorry if you don't like being short, but pretending that you aren't doesn't change it. And you don't need to change it anyway. Is it wrong to be short? Is it a crime? No. So who cares if someone calls you short? And anyway, why on earth is it less offensive to use six syllables to describe something, instead of one??

It also creates arrogance. More and more people today think that they really are the center of the universe. That they really are more important than other people. That other people's needs are never quite as necessary as their own. When someone gets offended at one phrase over another phrase, when both of them say the exact same thing, that is arrogance at it's finest. It's saying "I'm so good and important, that you disrespect me by using common, lay-man's language. I deserve specially phrases, just for me."

BULL. CRAP. If it's good enough for me, it's good enough for you.

Number 4: Cheap humor.

More and more, people make movies that are comedies, but they fill them full of crap. Sure it's amusing, sometimes, but mostly it's just stupid. The funniest humor is clever. It can be cheesy, or silly, or slapstick, or whatever you want. But it's got to be clever at the same time. Dropping the f-bomb 64 times in ten minutes does not constitute clever. Making 500 jokes in a row about your anatomy is not clever either. It's just dumb.

I use Family Guy as my prime example. I know most of you probably watch it, including my family. But this is just how I feel. The people who make family guy are smart. They're clever. They're witty. They have the potential to be the funniest people on the planet. There are some parts of Family Guy episode's I've seen that make me cry I'm laughing so hard. (this pic is of such a part) But they sink to sheer stupidity and dirty jokes for most of their laughs. They don't have to, but they do. Because that's just what's popular these days. And to be completely honest, I don't find 90% of each episode to be that interesting. The 10% that's crying my eyes out hilarious is just not worth it.

I can't really explain this very well. I wish I could. It drives me crazy that I am tongue tied when trying to make an important point. But alas, such is life.

Number 5: Road Rage

Not only is this part of the center of the universe syndrome, but it makes even less sense than political correctness. We turn on the turn signal. We look into the next lane. We see a car WAY WAY back there. So we move lanes. Suddenly the car is up on our bumper, honking shaking fists, screaming, and stalking us down three different roads. *shrug*

This really did happen. We turn off of one road, on to another, and then onto a third, and this lady in a red sports car was still following us, still tailgating, and shaking her fist. Once we got to the third road, which was two lanes instead of one, she swerved quite violently into the other lane, sped up, and swerved, equally violently, right in front of us. We calmly changed lanes. She swerved to cut us off. We calmly changed lanes again. She swerved again.

Every single person who hears this story is thinking "Jeez, what a nutjob" or something to that effect. Everyone laughs at this lady. All her violent rage served to do was make her a laughing stock. And yet half the people who have heard this story will go out to drive somewhere, decide they've been slighted, and get just as irrationally angry as this lady, even if they don't necessarily act on it.

All for.... ?? Money? Food? Fame?
I don't know about you, but I've never been offered anything like that, just to get furious with another car. In this world of material possessions and me, me, me, you'd think this is something that people would understand... with no obvious personal gain, why should your precious time be wasted on feeling horrible? It's an entirely selfish logic, and yet no one listens.

Haha. I just googled road rage and found two things that are funny. One was a post very like mine, in which the writer coolly demonstrated that the only real winner is the one getting glared AT instead of giving the glare. Because it makes us laugh. It makes us think you're an idiot. And we continue on our merry way. The other is this pic someone snapped of a mid-road, angry road rage fight. Now THAT makes me laugh too. Which goes to prove my point yet again.

Now, as most of you are aware, there are a LOT more really really stupid things out there. But I can't exactly just sit and think of all of them off the top of my head. And I'm not really too bothered by it to try. These are just the ones that have been on my brain recently. So I'll just say that as I think of ones that amuse me, I'll post them. But for now, this will be all. Laters.