Monday, February 28, 2011

Litvlog Sing Along: Middlemarch

Have you ever read a book that so impressed you with its sheer majesty and grace, yet overwhelmed you with its sheer length and verbosity?  Yeah, me too.

Defining Definitions: Adapted

I was watching the Academy Awards last night (I know, something you would never expect a cultural pariah to do) and was fairly unmoved by the pageantry (because cultural pariahs don't watch movies and are therefore ambivalent about awards shows).  Despite my lack of knowledge of films that came out in 2010, however, my jaw just about hit the floor when the nominees for "Best Writing (Adapted Screenplay)" were announced:
  • 127 Hours: screenplay by Danny Boyle & Simon Beaufoy, based on Aron Rolston's autobiography, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
  • The Social Network: screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on Ben Mezrick's nonfiction book, The Accidental Billionaires.
  • Toy Story 3: screenplay by Michael Arndt; Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich, based on the first two movies.
  • True Grit: written for the screen by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen, based on Charles Portis' novel of the same name.
  • Winter's Bone: adapted for the screen by Debra Granik & Anne Rosellini, based on Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name.
I'll assume you either already know or don't care about who won and skip straight to the part that just about sent me through the roof: of these five nominations, one of these things is not like the others.  (Need a hint?  Since when is a movie that is "based on the first two movies" in a series an adaptation?)

Apparently since always.  According to the ever-reliable and sometimes-true Wikipedia, "All sequels are automatically considered adaptations by this standard (since the sequel must be based on the original story)."

Really? Deciding to hit a cash cow up again by adding another movie to a successful franchise is an "adaptation"?  Really?  So Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was an "adaptation" in the same way that Gone with the Wind was, just because a writer chose to recycle characters and setting from a previous movie rather than coming up with a completely original idea?

Not around here, it isn't.  In Not-So-Gentle Reader Land, an adaptation is only the adaptation of a written piece of work--whether that is a short story (e.g. Brokeback Mountain), a poem (Beowulf), a novel (Fried Green Tomatoes), or a play (Angels in America).  It is never the adaptation of earlier films, or we might need to add Star Wars: The Phantom Menace or Fievel Goes West to the list and I wouldn't be able to live with myself.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Sassy Gay Friend: The Giving Tree (2010)

Not nearly as good as the others, but this "Sassy Gay Friend" video perfectly encapsulates my views of the dysfunctional relationship at play in The Giving Tree.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: Bronte Sisters Power Dolls (1998)

Check out this video described as "a fake commercial we made in 1998 for a series of educational shorts about action figures based on historical figures. Its educational value was somewhat suspect. It was never aired."  Anything that involves the Bronte sisters joining forces and forming the Brontesaurus is all win in my book.

Oh, and apparently Not-So-Gentle Reader is becoming a repository for links to awesome literary videos.  I'm somewhat okay with that for the time being.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: How to Be Alone (2010)

Speaking as someone who has gradually tapered her consumption of poetry due a general indifference to it, this video by Andrea Dorfman of Tanya Davis' poem "How to Be Alone" is fantastic.  It makes me want to run outside and do something completely crazy and new.

The full text of the poem below the jump.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Great Gobs of Great Gatsby!

"But above the gray land and the spasms of bleak dust which drift endlessly over it, you perceive, after a moment, the eyes of Doctor T. J. Eckleburg." --The Great Gatsby
I think the universe is trying to tell me to re-read The Great Gatsby. Upon going to Galveston a couple of weeks ago, I stumbled across this sign hanging in front of a store and had to document it for posterity (since the first thing it made me think of was Doctor T.J. Eckleburg).

Then Homero, my fellow English-major-in-arms, sent me a link to the NES Great Gatsby Game, an incredibly difficult game that makes it incredibly easy to kill time.

Unfortunately, I have a bad feeling my copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's most famous work is in my parents' garage.  D'oh!

On the Road Again (Again)

Some friends and I went on a road trip last weekend to West Texas (specifically the Marfa, Texas area) and I obviously had to find a book to give some insight on the local color.  I wasn't really interested in a listing of roadside attractions ("World's Largest Rocking Chair!" "World's Largest Ball of String!") and so I was particularly interested in Weird Texas, by Wesley Treat, Heather Shade, and Rob Riggs.

While the book made for an interesting page-flipper (as opposed to a page-turner), I have two minor complaints about it:
The book is mostly made up of local legends, and while I like reading about some farmer seeing Chupacabra as much as the next girl, I would have preferred more information on things I can actually see myself.

For those things that I could actually see myself, the book does not provide specific directions to find it, instead giving vague locales like "Such-and-Such Street in San Antonio."  Annoying.
However, the book still makes for an amusing read and would probably also make for a serviceable coffee table book, if you're into that kind of thing.

On an unrelated note, if you're ever in the Marfa, Texas area there is an amazing book store--seriously, the best book store I've ever seen in a town boasting a population just over 2000 people.  I walked into the Marfa Book Company and kind of wanted to cry it was so awesomely amazing.  Any bookstore that has copies of both Waiting for Godot and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead on the same shelf is top of my list.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Not-So-Gentle Viewer: I'm Reading a Book (2011)

I just got the best ab workout of my life by watching this video and having to keep quiet.  OH MY GOD, IT'S AWESOME.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Review: Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United States, by Bill Bryson

I've been somewhat on a nonfiction kick recently, which is why I picked up Bill Bryson's Made in America, an "informal history" of the development of American English.  I've always had a kind of lazyman's interest in linguistics--while I think it's interesting to learn where terms like "jaywalking" came from, I do not want to learn the phoenetic alphabet or memorize the dates of the vowel or consonant shifts.

Therefore, the first half of Made in America was a pretty interesting read, tracking how the pilgrims stole shamelessly from the Native Americans, how unstable the English language was at the time of the Founding Fathers, all the way through the influx of languages brought with all of the immigrants throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.  Bryson has a pretty sharp wit and a wry attitude that was particularly entertaining when contrasted with the History Channel version of events we normally get.

The book unfortunately slowed down about halfway through, with Bryson focusing each chapter on a specific aspect of American life.  I lost interest about ten pages into the chapter on the development of the highway system and automobiles, and although the last chapter sounded promising (being all about American mores and language surrounding sex), I'd lost interest in the book.

I guess my advice would be to only try to read the chapters in which you have a particular interest, and then this book will be absolutely fascinating.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On the Road (Again)

Huh.  So they're making a film version of On the Road, starring Sam Riley as Sal Paradise, Garret Hedland as Dean Moriarty, and everyone's favorite sullen actress as Marylou.  (I kid, I kid.  I have no idea if Kristen Stewart is everyone's favorite sullen actress.)

Anyway, even though I know I'll probably see this once it comes out on DVD, part of me is expecting it to be something like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  I'm just not entirely convinced that these kind of books should be made into those kinds of movies.
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