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Shanna's Journal
Shanna's Adventures in Publishing (and in life)
Movies: The HBO Report 
2nd-Dec-2008 12:30 pm
One pineapple down, two to go.

I've realized that the problem with being in the brainstorming/thinking phase of a project is that it's difficult to set goals or measure progress. For writing, I can set a word count or page count goal, and then I know I've had a good day when I meet or exceed it. But it's hard to set a goal of coming up with so many ideas or to know if you've really had a productive day. A lot of the time, the day may seem unproductive, but the subconscious is spinning away, and a few days later it will all come together and come out at once. So, I'm not sure what I accomplished yesterday. There are some new scribbles in my notebook, and I've discovered that the book of names I have is completely lacking in names related to the ethnic groups I'm playing with.

Yesterday, I did a list of my recent reading. Today I'll catch up on movies I've watched recently. I could probably call this "The HBO Report" because that's where I've been watching movies. I think there are more than this that I don't quite recall, which probably says something about the movies, but then I have a bad habit of using HBO as background noise for reading or doing the Sunday crosswords. So, here's what I remember watching in the past month or so:

August Rush -- This is one of those movies that I get caught up in and involved with while I'm watching it, but it totally falls apart the moment I start thinking about it. This is the one about the kid who has music in his head who wants to find his parents and thinks they'll find him if they hear his music. On that level, it kind of worked, even though when you think about it, it's a little on the "ew" side that the supposedly Grand Love between his parents was a quickie one-night stand on a rooftop, on the day they met, and they hadn't seen each other since then. And then there's the somewhat eye-rolling premise that because both of his parents are musicians, the kid is going to be a musical prodigy in spite of absolutely no training or exposure to music. Still, when you turn off the critical side of your brain, it kind of worked, aside from a rather weak attempt to create tension by throwing in Robin Williams as a kind of Fagin for street performing kids.

Atonement -- This is a rare case of me liking the movie better than the book, but I can't really discuss the reason without giving away the big plot twist. It could just be that I read the book before I saw the movie, so I was braced for the big revelation, but in the book, it felt more like a "Ha! Got you, sucker!" while in the movie, it really did feel like what it supposedly was. Cryptic enough for you?

Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium -- This movie has inspired an entire writing rant that I'm still mentally working on, but in brief, it struck me as a cynical person's calculated attempt to write something "magical" and "heartwarming" without understanding anything about what really is magical and heartwarming. Jason Bateman and the kid were wonderful (who'd have thought, back in the 80s, that "Justine's brother" would have turned out to be so great?). There was an interesting concept buried in the mess that would have worked with better writing. And one has to wonder why Dustin Hoffman decided to play a supposedly sweet magical toy store owner as a retarded, lisping drag queen without the drag.

Sweeney Todd -- I've "watched" this a couple of times already, and by "watched" I mean I've listened to it. It's a bit too gory and icky to really watch, but it sounds great. It is now official that Johnny Depp can do absolutely everything. For his next role, I think he should have to play classical piano and do karate. I'm a bit of a voice snob, and he really could sing. Helena Bonham Carter was the weak link, in a sense. I think her voice worked for her character, but it didn't blend well when she had to sing with better singers. The younger characters were played by real musical theater people and had gorgeous voices. The look of the film worked. There was just a lot of blood. Lots and lots of blood. Did I mention the blood? And I'm not particularly squeamish. I used to read medical journals for fun and I can watch surgery video without flinching.

27 Dresses -- Another movie that has inspired an upcoming rant. It was your basic paint-by-numbers romantic comedy, as made by people who think that audiences for romantic comedies are all idiots. On the up side, James Marsden is very, very pretty, and they even let him sing. I could certainly see what she might like about him, but I never got a sense for what he liked about her. That's where that thinking the audience is a bunch of idiots comes in. I guess they figure it's a chick flick, so all the chicks care about is that the hottie pursues the heroine. No one will bother to ask why because the chicks will all be identifying with the heroine, so they'll take it for granted that he'll like her. I think this is also a case of coming up with a premise and then not following through on all the implications of it. No matter how much a girl loves weddings, even to the point of clipping the wedding articles from the newspaper, to be a bridesmaid, she generally has to have some kind of relationship with the bride. It's not like she can hang around wedding salons with a "will bridesmaid for reception food" sign. So if someone was close enough friends to be a bridesmaid for 27 people, wouldn't you think she'd have a very active social life with a lot of people in it? I'm practically a recluse, and I have a more active social life and more friends than she did -- and I'm not sure I have 27 friends close enough that I would go to their weddings, let alone be a bridesmaid for. I want to see James Marsden in a really good romantic comedy. It doesn't have to be a musical, but some singing is mandatory.

I know there have to be more than this, especially from when I was sick, but I can't think of them at the moment. Maybe I need to keep a list the way I do with books.
2nd-Dec-2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
I found the gore in Sweeney Todd to veer between 'excessive' and 'excessive to the point of hilarity', myself, but then I was always the weird kid who munched popcorn through the dinner scene Hannibal. But the soundtrack was just plain lovely.
2nd-Dec-2008 06:50 pm (UTC)
I thought the blood looked so ridiculously (and purposefully) fake that it didn't bother me at all!
2nd-Dec-2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
I guess for me it wasn't so much the spurting blood as it was the stacks of body parts going into the meat grinder. That was when I had to close my eyes.
2nd-Dec-2008 06:46 pm (UTC)
I did think Johnny Depp did a marvelous job in Sweeney Todd, but I thought that he and Alan Rickman's voices were the weaker ones -- I was perfectly happy with their singing, but I thought it seemed likely they'd been chosen for the roles based on acating, not singing. With Helena Bonham Carter, I assumed she'd been chosen based on who her husband is, but if I hadn't known that, I could have been convinced she'd been chosen at least in part for singing and not just acting.

Would have loved to see Neil Patrick Harris in this -- on stage he played the one who courted Joanna, right?

Related but not -- I thought poor Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia! was a mistake. Oh, he tried! But it was a little painful....

I'll have to see Atonement. I know the basic premise but I'm not sure of the "reveal". It may be one of those things that I'll start to recognize from overheard bits of conversations and half-read reviews. We'll see. Do I need to make sure I'm not in a depressed mood when I watch it? ;-)
2nd-Dec-2008 07:09 pm (UTC)
I didn't see Mamma Mia because I do like Pierce Brosnan and I wanted to keep liking him. There are so many actors who really can sing that I'm not sure why they insist on casting those who can't in musicals. I figure I'll catch that one on HBO when I have access to the mute button.

As for Atonement, the movie isn't nearly as much an emotional sledgehammer sucker punch as the book was, but I'd say go for a middling mood and have something fun planned afterward -- you don't want to go in depressed, but it could also ruin a good mood, and it's not one of those cleansing, cathartic depressing things, either. It's just an "oh, bummer, life sucks" type of thing.
3rd-Dec-2008 07:01 am (UTC)
I think if you hadn't read "Atonement", the book, you might have felt cheated by the ending of the movie. But because you already knew about it, you were prepared for it.
I had high hopes for the movie based on the previews and then ended up disappointed.
--Thomas Miller
2nd-Dec-2008 07:29 pm (UTC)
I thought NPH played Toby . . . at least I recall seeing a clip of him playing Toby.
2nd-Dec-2008 08:58 pm (UTC)
I would trust your memory on this more than mine! Toby is the little boy, right?
2nd-Dec-2008 09:47 pm (UTC)
Unless I confused him with the kid in Labyrinth . . . at any rate, I do mean the little boy.

*checks Youtube*

Okay, so it's Tobias . . . I was close! But NPH would be awesome in any role. Especially a singing one.
2nd-Dec-2008 07:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, God, 27 Dresses. What a piece of crap. James Marsden was the shining beacon of non-suckitude in that movie, and everything else was horrid. I totally agree with everything you said above, and then some. (Warning: spoilers ahead for those who might actually want to see this.)

What was up with the whole plot involving her sister? Why didn't she just tell her sister that she had the hots for her boss? It's not like she had any claim on him, as she'd been mooning after him for years. You snooze, you lose. Also? She's your SISTER. Tell her how you feel instead of sabotaging her at her rehearsal dinner. TERRIBLE. There was absolutely nothing about the lead character I liked, as she was a doormat of a woman who couldn't stand up for herself, and yet blamed others for her own failures and ineptitude. James Marsden's character deserved better.

The only scene that I enjoyed in the film was the "Benny and the Jets" bit, and seeing as how I HATE that song, it's saying a lot for James Marsden's abilities. He needs to be a bigger star already.
2nd-Dec-2008 07:12 pm (UTC)
Oh yeah, that whole not telling about the long-term crush thing was so dumb. Why not mention it after the first date instead of going all passive-aggressive about it? Granted, the sister seemed like a big enough bitch to go after him, anyway, out of spite, but then at least it would be out in the open.
2nd-Dec-2008 09:43 pm (UTC)
We own this and an earlier edition of this. I don't know if I can do a go-between for you and the contents of the books, but if an attempt would be helpful, let me know what you're looking for. (If it's a particular nationality and then a particular meaning withing that nationality, I think I'll do better attempting that than anything else.)

Thursday. I can work on it Thursday.
2nd-Dec-2008 10:24 pm (UTC)
Thanks, but I found some pretty good resources online. Now I just need to figure out which name sounds right for each character. That's what I get for relocating my setting years after developing the initial idea.
2nd-Dec-2008 11:16 pm (UTC)
you know Depp is playing the Mad Hatter for Burton's live action Alice in Wonderland, slated for a 2010 release. A friend and I were wondering when/if we would see a revival of steampunk fashions, something I wouldn't mind, personally.
3rd-Dec-2008 02:58 am (UTC)
Seriously-- the trick with 27 Dresses is to come in an hour into the film, just as she's trying on the dresses. By and large, as a viewer you're spared the worst of Jane's doormat behavior. Overall, you get a more balanced story. Even her behavior with her sister is in better perspective.

Plus, lots of James Marsden in the last hour.
3rd-Dec-2008 02:49 pm (UTC)
"Mr. Magorium" was most likely pitched as "Willy Wonka" in a toy store. Hoffman reminded me of Richard Dreyfuss playing a gay Richard III in The Goodbye Girl. I did like when Hoffman was talking about King Lear. He needs to go back to Broadway as Lear. I also loved the sock monkey.
"27 Dresses" was probably pitched as "The Wedding Crashers" for women, which is why there is the ethnic wedding in the beginning and the scene with her trying on all the dresses from themed weddings. I thought that scene, with him taking pictures was slightly creepy. It was a funny bit, but when you really think about it, it is very odd. At Jane's age, who would play dress up for a guy, even if he was egging her on. In a different movie, that would be a prelude for the axe murderer to show up.
Watch--in two years a movie will come out that will be a cross between "27 Dresses" and a slasher film. The boss will realize he loves Jane in time to save her from the mad writer/slasher/serial killer, but Tess, the bad girl, will get killed.
The blood in "Sweeney Todd" seemed really stylized to me so it wasn't a problem. The CD is on heavy rotation at my house. Yes, I agree that Johnny Depp can do anything and everything.
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