Readables and Adaptables: Books that Inspire

If you are ever short on inspiration, here is my preferred reading list!

AKA

Books I Always Hold To My Chest After A Finished Read.

Note: Seeing the filmed versions of so many of my most treasured books has proven to me how adaptation is a balancing act performed on a ledge that is thin as a knife’s edge and just as sharp. Reading is such a private pleasure and the imagination is as individual as one’s personality and so the task is pretty formidable when trying to create something that will please those who have loved the source material. Then again, when it’s done well it is nothing short of magic seeing the world come to life and well-known characters inhabit it. And so here are the works I wish I could have gotten my hands on first, among those that are still untouched. Oh, the possibilities.

thegodofsmallthingsThe God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Låt Den Rätte Komma In (Let the Right One In) by John Ajvide Lindqvist

let-the-right-one-in4

Still from the Swedish movie version of Let the Right One In, based on the screenplay written by John Ajvide Lindqvist.

The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton

The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough

Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

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Zelah Clarke as Jane and Timothy Dalton as Mr. Rochester in the 1983 BBC production of Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

A Song of Ice and Fire, Book One-Five, by George R. R. Martin

The Other Side of the Story by Marian Keyes

Den Vidunderliga Kärlekens Historia (Horrific Sufferings of the Mind-Reading Monster Hercules Barefoot: His Wonderful Love and His Terrible Hatred) av Carl-Johan Vallgren

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

fight_club_quote_by_julianmadesomething-d6kp0fm

Fanart by julianmadesomething for the 1999 filmatization of the novel.

 

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Ten Movies: I Would Bring To A Deserted Island

(In the hopes that the deserted island has a TV. And a DVD-player. And electricity. And possibly a bar with lemon-y drinks. And ice. And small umbrellas. And beach chairs. And luaus. And I may move there. So I would so pack these.)

1. Fight Club

Because it is the quintessential of the quientessentials. In every respect. It contains all you could ever want out of a movie: thought-provoking plot line, dramatic plot twists, amazing and complex characters and relationships, slamming dialogue, action-thriller-comedy-romance flavours and a basic Fuck You to product placement signed David Fincher. Not that I’m against product placement. Movies get made that way. I just don’t like labels shoved in my face. Who does? It kinda sorta works against the product rather than for it. Based on the best selling novel by Chuch Pahlaniuk – which I also recommend you read, if you haven’t already.

2. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

This is, without a doubt, one of my absolute favourite films. As a romantic comedy (of sorts) it gives a hint of how the genre should always be handled, with its deep emotional core built through characters that are real rather than stereotypical. Holly Golightly remains one of my all-time most adored characters and oh, how I wish I could’ve thought of her first. The film is based on the acclaimed novel by Truman Capote – which I admit I have not gotten around to reading yet.

3. Queen Victoria

This is the perfect costume drama with a beautifully true love story at its heart. As a fan of everything British I am a little surprised that this is the only British title making it onto this list (though But Inside I’m Dancing came very close). Leaving this astonishing lapse of Brit-adoration on this list aside, Queen Victoria offers up a marvellously well-crafted character portrait and time document, giving you a glimpse of what it must have been like to be very young and charged with the responsibility of an entire nation’s future and well-being.

4. The Matrix

To this very day, whenever I watch this movie I am in awe of its simple and yet extremely complex vision that is purveyed effortlessly through its then groundbreaking special effects that still make my jaw drop, remembering how it dropped way-back-when. It is one of those science fiction films that stands out in its originality and will continue to do so because no matter how you may want to emulate it, all you will end up creating are sloppy seconds.

5. Rise of the Planet of the Apes

I love Andy Serkis. I loved him as Gollum and I love him as the main character in this film, the ape Ceasar, who truly does justice to his name. I love how this film feels like an actual, plausible prequel, one that adheres to the rules of the original Planet of the Apes and doesn’t try to trample all over them, instead it rises to the occasion (sorry) and offers up a heartfelt, believable world where the divide between man and ape are beginning to blur.

6. All About Eve

It’s all about ambition and fading glory in this spectacularly well-crafted tale of the ageing diva forced to come to terms with her fading career. It is inspiring to listen to a dialogue that is crisp, witty and well-paced, delivered by characters that are well-rounded and intriguing. Starring Bette Davis and Anne Baxter, among others, it’s one of those 1950’s classics that you simply must see. Truly.

7. Ensemble, C’est Tout

In truth I could have put ten French titles on this list. Audrey Tatou would have been in at least five of them. She has a knack for choosing projects that appeal to me. Okay, to everyone. (Except that weird Da Vinci Code flick. What the hell was that all about?) But Ensemble, C’est Tout was my final pick because it really is a wonderful piece of cinema, with three main characters whose destinies entwine in a lovely, moving and honest way that makes the story feel like one you would want to take with you. Everywhere.

8. Stranger Than Fiction

In a perfect mix of comedy and possible tragedy, with a tendency more toward the comedy, but carrying with it a hint of tragedy, this film is a delight. It has a serious undertone that merely elevates the comedy and provides the heart of the film. The journey of an avarage man with an avarage job and an avarage life having something extraordinary happen to him that inevitably pushes him into situations that are extraordinary to him by forcing him out of his comfort zone. Perhaps we should all have a narrator appear once in a while. Hearing voices might not be all bad.

9. Tangled

(Spolier: I may be making a list consisting of movies I can watch three times in a row, and this title will undoubtedly appear on that list also.) I cannot get over how well-crafted this film is, how extremely well-balanced the story elements are, how perfectly voiced the characters are, how hilarous Maximus and Eugene are, how the songs fit into the context of the movie, and each time I watch it I feel like I’m getting a free lesson in structure, character motivation, dialogue, the beats of a scene and all those things I find so thrilling about great films in general. Thank you, Disney.

10. I Rymden Finns Inga Känslor

Huh? What the…? Wuuuuuut? Swedish, peeps. Swedish. My only Swedish title and, by George (or Karl), it’s not Bergman. The title directly translated reads In Space There Are No Feelings and it tells the story of how Simon – who suffers from Asperger’s – goes to live with his brother Sam, who is the only person who properly knows how to deal with him. Simon moving in, however, puts a strain on Sam’s relationship and when his girlfriend decides to leave Sam’s whole world is shattered, which means Simon’s whole world is shattered. Simon wants things back to normal and the simple sollution to him is: find a girlfriend for Sam. This sets off the movie’s humorous and heart-warming plot and his actions will teach Simon a thing or two about ”normal”.

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Review: The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Without partaking in the current trend of dividing the title of a sequel with a colon, or adding onto the title of the original movie so as to add flavour such as in the cases of Star Trek Into Darkness, X-Men: First Class, Captain America: The Winter Soldier etc. – Spidey is staying true to the classic numeric coding of yesteryear. And The Amazing Spider-Man 2 has a lot of expectations attached to it as The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) not only introduced a franchise for the second time in a decade, but also managed to remove the memory of the first attempt to a less prominent spot in the minds of a whole lot, if not most, of Spidey’s fans. Peter Parker’s journey from nerdy high school student to masked hero is told in both versions through humour, warmth and an understanding of the character, but The Amazing Spider-Man takes it a small step further and, by using such small means, onto a slightly deeper level. And the title with a 2 absolutely holds its own.

spidey2

I would even go so far as to say that the title with the 2 holds its own –  and then some. It opens with two staggering action sequences, leaving the audience barely enough time to draw half a breath between them. The first takes place in a flashback onboard an airplane where shit happens (The Dark Knight Rises, anyone?) and then we are smashed into the second and honest Spidey action as we’re taken to the heart of NYC, a set-up that not only anchors us in the present, but also in Spider-Man’s role as crime fighter and how he’s established a familiar and congenial relationship with the inhabitants of the city: he cares about them, listens to them and encourages them.

The film is truly brimming, not only with action, but also with acting talent. Naturally Andrew Garfield is back as the lead character and I couldn’t tell you if it’s his choices as an actor or Mark Webb’s choices as a director that carries the most weight when it comes to Peter Parker’s characterization, but little moments are added that give him beautiful and simplistic depth. Emma Stone is back as the love interest Gwen Stacy – who, thank the heavens, is allowed to be more than The Reason For The Hero to Be Heroic. The chemistry between Gwen and Peter is as delightful to watch as in the previous installment, and though I sometimes had certain choices make rather wonder at them, I still felt very much engaged by the relationship.

Sally Field returns as Aunt May and the delightful Felicity Jones can be more or less glimpsed in a smaller role, as can Paul Giametti. As public enemy numero uno Jamie Foxx takes on a dual role, as is custom (after all, this is the universe of Spidey, where all men seem to be cursed with inescapable double natures). He starts out as the underappreciated loner Max Dillon and ends up the blue blazing Electro. Added to the mix is actor Dane DeHaan, who creates needed texture (or is it?) for the second act in the form of Peter’s childhood friend Harry Osborn, back in town due to his father’s deadly illness.

Overall, The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is offering everything one would expect of a blockbuster movie. The CGI is ever present, in an impressive way; the fights are nicely choreographed to actually appeal to the eye and hold your attention for more than the first minute or two; the characters and the relationships between them are granted enough screentime to feel important and leave an impact, giving the audience a chance to actually land in the world of the film inbetwixt all that impressive action; there is humour and drama galore. And perhaps this is the movie’s biggest weakness: the galore of it all. It just gets to be too much of a good thing.

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With a plot that contains three threats (yes, count them – three) directed at Spider-Man it doesn’t leave much room to build an actual understanding for any of the true motivation behind these threats, or promote a sense of connection between them and the world they are supposed to wage war on, no matter if that war lies with society at large or Spider-Man specifically. It is attempted with Max Dillon and a rocky base for his motivation is established quickly, but in the end it doesn’t quite hold up and his hunger for revenge feels almost out of character.

Disregarding the above paragraph I still took pleasure in this worthy sequel, much thanks to Spider-Man himself and the portrayal of the character. More than once I found myself cheering silently to myself as I watched him, feeling utterly convinced by him being a hero, a real one, someone who, instead of staying in to eat popcorn and strive for third base with his girl, makes the active choice to put on a mask and go save the lives of perfect strangers. One of the best visual manifestations of this side to him actually takes place in The Amazing Spider-Man when Peter, bloody and beaten up after the final confrontation, returns home to Aunt May, pulls out an egg carton – which she reminded him to buy for her – from his backpack and rests his head on her shoulder as she hugs him, moaning: ”Rough day.” Because, at the end of every day, underneath all the enhanced spider senses, he is just a young guy who makes that active choice to do something heroic with his life. He gives people hope, he’s a role model, and, damn, if he ain’t entertaining to watch on the big screen.

 

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Short: Inseparable

This short tells the story of a dying man’s last attempt at looking out for his family. Beautiful cinematography underscores an emotionally solid storyline and with the acting talent of Benedict Cumberbatch to play two sides to the same coin (well, sort of) there are not many ways to go wrong. Written by Matthew James Wilkinson and directed by Nick White.

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It’s Just a Game, but What a Fiasco!

Okay, perhaps I just attempted to be a little bit too quippy with this title, but listening to last week’s episode of the podcast Scriptnotes made me incredibly curious and in the mood to play it asap. Lacking anyone who might want to play it with me as it relies so heavily on storytelling (and, believe it or not, not everyone I know are into that sort of thing) I wanted to pass the inspiration on and hope that one of you may let me experience it vicariously through you.

The game is called Fiasco and, sincerely, it seems the perfect way to spend a couple of hours not only tickling them grays, but also practicing understanding character motivation and how important it is for any kind of storytelling ever.

Here is a video introduction hosted by Wil Wheaton taken from the homepage of the game. For some reason I can’t add a YouTube clip at the moment and so I’ll simply link to it here.

 

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What the fudge?!

Was sort of exactly my thought again and again last week – only it wasn’t ”fudge” and it was also, at times, in Swedish. The expression was used due to my carefully laid plans for last week’s review marathon, which was to appear both on this blog and the Swedish sisterblog I am also hosting, crumbling under the weight of unforeseen events. My schedule, to say the least, went out the window due to two factors:

  • I am working two dayjobs to make rent (as a temp at a daycare center and as a temp at a shop selling interior design – both jobs rock) and I was called in to work the weekend, which I had not anticipated
  • Writing the reviews and translating them (so they can be featured on both blogs) took a lot more time than I originally thought

So there. Serious lessons learned and now I’m moving on to this week. Yay! It hurts my heart when I don’t get to update as regularly as I would like and so, instead of packing my plate so full that pieces of that really awesome cheese or those slamming dates wrapped in bacon (gettinghungrynow) actually fall off the edges, I’m going to ease up a bit. Not even try to bite off more than I can chew, as the expression so rightly goes.

This week I will continue the Review theme on my Swedish blog and do a more regular line-up here. Next week I will aim to pick up Review week here and do the regular thing on the Swedish blog. Acceptable? I hope so.

Thanks for putting up with me during this learning curve I’m in and thanks for reading!

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Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson is the type of director who is unmistakable. His quirkiness as a filmmaker shows itself predominantly in his perfectly framed and balanced shots (setting his original visionary style), his over-the-top choreography (that more often than not adds humour) and his penchant for weaving intricate plots for a large ensemble of characters. I personally hold The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) as my absolute favourite, but 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom stood out to me as well.

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens with a young woman visiting the grave of a celebrated author, clutching his beloved memoir entitled The Grand Budapest Hotel in her arms. She sits down on a bench and begins to read. What unfolds from here is a story within a story within a story: the girl reads the retelling by the Author (Jude Law) of the actual story we’re about to follow, narrated to him by Zero Moustafa (F. Murray Abraham), whom he meets while paying a visit to The Grand Budapest Hotel. The story is one of love and war, poverty and honor, murder and pastries, hotel management and greed, but most of all it is one of friendship.

Zero Moustafa tells the tale of how he came to work as a lobbyboy at The Grand Budapest under the watchful eye of the hotel consierge Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) who, after a brief interview regarding Zero’s previous training and education, concludes that the knowledge Zero has of the duties involved with being a lobbyboy comes to the totalsum of zero. He is swayed in his decision to keep him or let him go when Zero’s answer to the final question is perfection. (Zero praises The Grand Budapest as the only place he could possibly wish to work.) This is the beginning of their friendship, one that will prove pivotal to them both.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a streak of the nostalgic about it. A lamentation hidden somewhere in its folds of the passing of an era when honor and the bond of a handshake was as reliable as a dinner jacket being worn after five o’clock. This notion is captured in the spirit of Monsieur Gustave as he stands up for Zero when the latter is threatened by possible exile, due to his immigrant status during wartime; but it is also visually established early on in the film with a shot of the grandness of the original hotel having been markedly changed by the influence of war and the forward march of time. The building goes from something not far from resembling an iced, pink wedding cake to being something closer to the visage of a square, concrete prison bunker.

The-Grand-Budapest-Hotel-Stillthe grand budapest 2

 

Back to Monsieur Gustave. He, to this viewer, becomes a reflection of how times are unwilling to change, but ultimately must succumb.

He wishes to take the inheritence left to him by his friend and lover Madame D and leave the (fictional) Republic of Zubrowka, offering to take Zero with him as his employee and promising to make him his heir as Zero is much younger than he is and he himself does not expect to live long. With this choice Monsieur Gustave demonstrates a willingness to leave his pride and joy – his beloved hotel – behind. But as the hotel, much later in the film, becomes occupied by soldiers, ”a barracks” as Monsieur Gustave calls it, he is so disgusted he sadly vows to never set foot in the hotel again – giving the impression that he is willing to leave, but on his own terms and possibly with the idea of returning once the war is over.

All the while, in parallel with Monsieur Gustave, the hotel itself becomes a representative of the old versus the new, tickling you with the notion of the good old days versus the modern times. Through this it further offers a comment on how we treat our own history, how we reshape and restructure everything around us in order to make it fit with the ”now” rather than the ”then”, easily forgetting that the ”then” is what has ultimately shaped the ”now” and may hold more interest if left as was. But, no, we take history for granted and insist on nip-tucking our past to better suit the present.

We see early on in the film what nip-tucking has done to The Grand Budapest. The once proud hotel is a shadow of its former glory and you get the feeling that its gutted lobby – once so grand – is meant to dissuade you, the viewer, from wanting to linger. The hotel is close to ruin. Nothing works. It has a faithful clientel, but not many new customers. Zero (who indeed inherited the hotel from Monsieur Gustave) still loves it, but for what it was and not at all for what it is. This has a bittersweet tinge to it, to say the least, as Zero’s final attempt at salvaging Monsieur Gustave’s legacy through modernization has resulted in there being nothing in the hotel left that Monsieur Gustave himself would recognize and treasure.

I take with me this, then, from a piece of artistic achievment that had me laughing more than once and managed the tricky task of being both somber and uplifting at the same time: perhaps we can’t stop the change and perhaps there’s no real point in wanting to, but we can preserve what has come before and by doing so gain the opportunity to marvel at the similarities between our present and our past.

 

 

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