Thoughtcrime: A New Film

Edinburgh Expeditions

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is the moment you have all been waiting for. It’s the premiere of my first film, Thoughtcrime. Loosely based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, it plays on the themes of surveillance, love, and honesty.

The film was written, directed and edited by yours truly and is my first film. I advise that you watch it wearing headphones, the sound quality is not the best.

Thoughts on Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

General Geekiness

Something I should never do is see a movie while rereading it. All of the additions are fresh, the omissions glaring, and the result is sometimes less than satisfactory. As in the case, I am sad to say, with Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

The movie is a good one, don’t get me wrong. It is entertaining, tense, and often uncomfortable. When it ends, you’re left in a sort of silence, unable to speak, to explain what you saw (a different sort of silence from this weekend’s other movie, Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In). I enjoyed watching it, seeing how the film would handle certain scenes and situations. I really liked how Ann Smiley is a shadow, a hand, a dress, a blurred body, a presence, just as Karla is.

Because of film’s shorter run time than TV (or indeed, a book), character development is sacrificed for tension. We never find out what the motivations for the suspects are, we never know of their more shining moments and their faults. The mole gets more screentime than the rest of the suspects (with the exception of George Smiley). Relationships are shortchanged, neglected, largely forgotten. Characters are omitted entirely, the politics of the Circus around Control’s death pushed aside. There is no sense of truly bad blood, of the rift, of the betrayal.

In thinking about the movie, there are more things that I dislike about it than I like. In terms of casting, Gary Oldman was very good as Smiley, as was Tom Hardy as Ricki Tarr, but it felt like the rest of the cast never was quite enough. Benedict Cumberbatch, while a good Peter Guillam, wasn’t tough enough. Toby Jones wasn’t pompous enough as Percy Alleline. Colin Firth, whom I was incredibly excited to see cast as Bill Haydon, fell a little flat.

I also am a bit wary of their moving the Prideaux storyline from Prague to Budapest, and the Ricki Tarr-Irina tale from Hong Kong to Istanbul.

I’ve also read that, rather than filming the Quest for Karla series as a trilogy, The Honourable Schoolboy and Smiley’s People may be combined into one movie. I guess The Honourable Schoolboy will have to wait to be its own movie.

Most amusing part? One of the production companies (I’m assuming John le Carre’s) is Karla Films.

Final verdict? Three of Five Stars.

Edit 21 September: It isn’t Prague that Jim Prideaux visits in the book. It’s Brno.

Weekend’s Reading

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

Well, I have a bit on my plate this weekend, reading wise. My current goal is to finish reading Seven Pillars of Wisdom before August 16. Why August 16? It would make sense if that were the book’s due date back at the library (it isn’t, I think its actually due on the 15th, but I have one more renewal). It’s Lawrence’s birthday. And given how close the day is, and how much I have left of the book, I’ll probably finish it either just before or on the day. I’m thoroughly enjoying the book, though I do find parts a bit dry and somehow managed to miss the entirety of the capturing of Akaba. I know I read the words, I think it just failed to process. Rather like how I managed to miss Helm’s Deep every time I read The Two Towers.

That, or I just was preoccupied by how a traditional Beduin feast is prepared. A sheep pyramid on a bed of rice drenched in hot gravy. Fascinating stuff.
Also up for reading:
The Complaints by Ian Rankin. Never read any of his books, figured I probably should, as I’ve wanted to for a couple of years now. And if I should randomly run into him on the street, I might have something intelligent to say.
And a biography of Gertrude Bell, because I’m not ready to leave the Arabia state of mind. And what little I’ve read about Bell is absolutely fascinating, so I want to read more about her.
Also on the entertainment list: the original Planet of the Apes and Bridge on the River Kwai must be watched. Interestingly, both based on books by Pierre Boulle…
And writing, naturally.

Harry Potter and the Disappointing End

General Geekiness

Here there be spoilers.

I wanted so badly to love Deathly Hallows, Part II. I really did. My friends all proclaimed their love for the movie, have seen it multiple times, and assured me that I, too, would love the movie.

I didn’t.

Yes, there were portions of the film that I really enjoyed–the Pensieve sequence being one, Helena Bonham Carter as Hermione Polyjuiced to be Bellatrix, and the visual effects (the dragon in Bellatrix’s Gringott’s vault, Voldemort turning to ash) but I felt the film was lacking.

Firstly, there was no true beginning. It just sort of started. I recognize that it was the second part of a book. But the structure was missing. As such, I felt it was very anti-climatic.

Within its structural issues, I felt that there was little sense of character. The Golden Trio, Neville, Snape, yes, but everyone else felt like cameos and nothing more than that. I was waiting for Trewlaney’s moment of awesome, when she chucks crystal balls at Death Eaters. Nonexistant. Fred’s death failed to have any emotional impact on me. Hagrid was…weak. Boring. He didn’t seem phased with Harry’s “death.”

Secondly, its too damn long. I love battle scenes as much as the next girl, but seriously. These are too long. I don’t want to watch a two hour battle scene. Its part of the reason why I don’t like The Two Towers all that much. Honestly, though, not enough happens to make it a compelling battle scene. There is no story to it, only fighting. The quest for the final horcruxes feels almost secondary, it detracts from the fighting, which has taken precedence.

Finally, it was unnecessary. I can hear people screaming, “what? why? we need to know how it ends!” Well, as a film, it was unnecessary. Deathly Hallows Part I could have been forty-five minutes longer, cut down on the ‘and we’re walking’ portions of the movie, and the final battle could easily have been included. Edited, of course. I gladly would have sat through a three hour Deathly Hallows, so long as it was well paced and engaging. The thing that hurts the most is that it could have been a fabulous single movie, the pieces are all there, but two mediocre halves do not a good movie make.

Time Travel books should be fun. This is a drag.

General Geekiness

It all started one innocuous day last week. After work, I went to my local library to pick up some books to read. First on the list of books to get was Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 (which I finished last night and thought was really very good). The other was up in the air. I figured I’d wander through the stacks at will, and something would catch my eye.

Well, I was really hoping that this library would have The Count of Monte Cristo (unabridged) but no such luck.

Instead of Dumas, I picked up The Time Traveler’s Wife, which is nearly as far from epic French literature as you can get. I had heard good things about the book, from professional reviews to recommendations from friends, and while I had seen the movie (and been underwhelmed), the ‘book is amazing!’ I continuously heard led me to think, ‘hmm, I’ll give this a shot.’ Besides, two things in fiction really appeal to me: time travel and immortality, and smack dab on the cover was the first of these.

The little pink ‘Romance’ sticker should have clued me in. Going into the book, I knew it was a love story. I didn’t think I’d end up philosophizing about it.

There are a few things that I like about the book. Namely, the narrative style. It is told alternately from Henry and Clare’s points of view, in the present tense, which is quite effective for the story being told. The book also makes me think, which is always a good thing for me (though not necessarily for anyone in earshot). I also really like the premise, as I adore time travel and, deep down, do enjoy a good love story when I can find one. My hopes were high for the book.

Before I go any further with my critique, I will preface it by saying that I’m about halfway through, and that things may change. I am hoping for some incredible revelation and that everything I am writing about is proven wrong.

Firstly, the joint problem of morality and logistics. Henry really doesn’t suffer any consequences for his actions. Yes, his time traveling means that he ends up running around naked, which leads to him mugging, beating people up and breaking and entering. He never seems to struggle with any of this, morally. He pushes it off, saying, (I paraphrase), “I need to do it to survive and no one will believe me anyways.” He shows no guilt, no remorse for those he has robbed, instead feeling entitled. He does nothing to make amends to those he has stolen from, instead snidely thinking that he is better than everyone else.

He does get arrested (which we are told about), but doesn’t seem to have a criminal record of any sort. Having never been arrested myself (and never want to be, thanks), I don’t know for certain, but I would think that one’s finger prints are on file. And lots of times jobs (and visas) make you get your prints taken, so wouldn’t it be odd if his prints matched up? Particularly as he always seems to end up in Chicago, where he lives and works.

Oh, and as he turns up naked random places, his employers at the library just assume he has some weird fetish for nudity and books, and they push it aside. Um, I think a library counts as a public place, so if anyone were to see Henry darting through the stacks looking for his clothes, wouldn’t that count as indecent exposure?

Next, there is the issue with predeterminism. Clare, the titular wife, meets her husband when she is six years old. And, as their meetings progress, she falls in love with him by the age of 12, pretty much knowing that the two of them will get married. All before she turns twenty. Clare takes this in stride and happily goes along with her life, knowing she’s going to marry some jerk named Henry.

Now, why exactly is Henry a jerk? He encourages Clare’s attachment to him. He doesn’t let her experience life as he has, to date other people, to make mistakes in relationships because its already determined that they’ll end up together. Clare never really has a say in anything, because Henry’s already seen the future. He knows what house they’re going to live in. He knows that they’re going to get married (arguably, in the beginning of his chronology, he doesn’t even know who Clare is, considering he lives life out of order, and decides to sleep with this girl he has met once because she says “OH MY GOODNESS! IT’S YOU! I LOVE YOU! BED ME NOW.” Again, paraphrasing).

Their acceptance of determinism really frustrates me. Henry makes no attempt to change anything, just saying, “It’s a bad idea. I prefer Chaos, but hey, I don’t think that that exists.” There’s no testing, both Henry and Clare are too cautious to make anything of it. There’s some talk about that messing with the universe, but this isn’t explored.

Finally, the root of the problem is with Clare. Her life revolves entirely around Henry. She has her career as a sculptor, but it is Henry who consumes every waking moment of her life. Her thoughts always return to him, and she cannot exist without him. Sculpture seems to be something just tacked on to her, to give her some depth, a ‘oh, she can exist without him, see, she has her ART.’ Which, incidentally, we don’t see her create until AFTER she and Henry are married. We hear about it, but never see it. Kind of like how Clare apparently went to college, but never seems to go to class (too busy mucking about with Henry) or graduate (she gets married and that’s that).

She buys so heavily into the “I’m going to spend the rest of my life with Henry” from such a young age, you can’t help but wonder if the girl’s been brainwashed by the dashing older man. The ‘we will end up together’ is so ingrained in her head, I can’t help but wonder if Henry lived some alternative life, didn’t like it, and is trying his damnedest to change it. Now, this reading may make the rest of the book more interesting, as 300 pages in is too much of an investment to shove aside. Somehow, I don’t think my theory is what the author had in mind.

Celebrating Hitchcock

General Geekiness
Rear Window

(C) Beth 2011

I find myself writing posts commemorating the death days rather than the birthdays of my favorite artists. As some of them, like Mr Hitchcock and Mr Dahl, tend towards the macabre, it’s rather fitting.

Today marks the 31st anniversary of Alfred Hitchcock’s death. I had intended on watching one of his movies every night this week. That, of course, failed, with my thesis presentation on Thursday. I did, however, manage to see The Birds at a local cinema on Monday night (which was wonderful), and To Catch a Thief on Tuesday. I believe tonight Holmes and I will finally finish watching Sabotage and perhaps watch another of Mr Hitchcock’s films.

Hitch is a director I came to rather recently. I had seen his second version of The Man Who Knew Too Much during my sophomore year of college, but hadn’t seen any of his other movies. Cue Psycho‘s jarring strings. Holmes needed to watch it for a class, and I, the ever ready film viewer hoping to reap the benefits of her class minus the homework. From Saul Bass’s credits, I was hooked.

The film entranced me, so much so that I watched the film several times over the course of the semester, even writing senior thesis number one about Psycho.

Psycho put Holmes and I on a quest: to see as many of Hitch’s films as possible. As he directed 52 surviving movies, we have our work cut out for us. I have fourteen under my belt, which is more than most people can say.

There’s something delightful about working our way through a director’s canon. I wouldn’t have seen many of his movies without this goal. Strangers on a Train, Rope…great movies I otherwise would have ignored.

My enjoyment of Hitch’s films have inspired my visual art as well. I’m undergoing a personal project to create a series of posters for his movies. One is completed: Rear Window. I intend on making posters for Psycho, The Birds, Rope and maybe even Strangers on a Train.

So, Mr Hitchcock, thanks for all the movies.