Marriage, Fishing Film, and Whooping: #ROW80

This month, my husband and I are celebrating our 19 years of marriage. Whenever we’re in a crowd, I still think my husband is the smartest, handsomest, and funniest guy in the room. These days, we have a few more wrinkles, more love handles, and more concerns about our retirement account. But we also have two fabulous children, a lot of hard-earned wisdom about relationships and life, and a love that has deepened over time. Rather than keep up this super-sappy, aren’t-we-happy essay, let me tell you one thing we did for our anniversary weekend.

We went to a theatre in town and saw a British film called Salmon Fishing in the Yemen.

This one has a big thumbs-up from me. I loved it.

Now I hate when someone gushes about a film so much that when you go see it, you’re disappointed because nothing but a personal appearance of the entire cast of the Star Wars trilogy in your living room could live up to that. So don’t go in expecting the highlight of your life, but Salmon Fishing in the Yemen is a lovely comedy with interesting characterization, clever dialogue, and a quirky story that will have you rooting for fish. Yes, you heard me correctly: fish.

Speaking of rooting, I love having my ROW80 colleagues rooting for me to succeed in my goals. Your cheerleading has paid off because here is this week’s report:

  • Log 5,000 words per week on young adult novel, SHARING HUNTER. This should result in a completed first draft. Well, paint me silver and call me sterling! I logged a whopping 10,331 words on SHARING HUNTER. But don’t start whooping yet . . . because I also wrote 1,176 words on a short story. Okay, now whoop.
  • If first draft is finished, edit once through SHARING HUNTER. Waiting on #1.
  • Work on pitch and synopsis for DFW Writers’ Conference (taking place May 20-22). Not yet.
  • If I get all of that done, edit through THE YEAR OF FIRSTS, my middle grade novel. Waiting on 3 tasks above.
  • Read one writing craft book: Christopher Vogler’s The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for WritersCleared the first 60 pages.
  • Read through March/April issue of The Writer’s Digest. No further on this one, but I had read a few articles already.
  • Take course from Tiffany Inman Lawson on 77 Secrets to Writing YA Fiction that Sells from the Margie Lawson Writers Academy. Starting in May.
  • Read 10 books keeping to my At-Least-3 Reading Challenge for 2012. On track. Finished GETTING RID OF BRADLEY by Jennifer Cruisie and now reading GRACELING by Kristin Cashore.
  • Post ROW80 updates on Sundays. Done.
  • Exercise three times a week — length of time to be determined. Zero. Zilch. Nada. I must make this a priority!

So how is your ROW80 week shaping up? Do you need a whoop for your progress? Or a little more rooting for your success?

Be sure to check out my fab fellow writers at the ROW80 link.

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4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

The Hunger Games was released in theaters on Friday, March 23. Like many others, I saw it on the same day. The reviews have since been rolling in. I personally enjoyed the film and give it a hearty thumbs-up . . . yet I still believe that reading the book is a superior experience.

As I pondered this question again, I decided to re-run an early post of mine for Deep-Fried Friday. I have tweaked the post slightly, but here it is.

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months! You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews. The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back. I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote: The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that? Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License. The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains. If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original. If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting. If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood. Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen. I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles. It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing. Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours. One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books. Well, of course. Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words). Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words). That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.” But not really. Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen. Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality. Imagine your perfect man. (Didn’t we do this back in high school?) He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious. Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real. It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality. Our imaginations are wonderful things. When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be. Then someone renders a reality version. And it isn’t the same. It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!). But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book. If you still remember specific dialogue, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation. Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time. You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate). It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book. I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

Lining Up at the Movies

What primarily fascinates me about language is how by simply choosing and ordering words, we can convey something meaningful to someone else. That fact is the foundation of speaking and writing. Sometimes, however, what’s said moves beyond meaningful and becomes memorable.

On Amaze-ing Words Wednesday, there’s probably no better place to consider this than with memorable lines from movies. The best quotations work their way into our collective colloquy and represent concepts or a shared understanding.

Below are my votes for the MOST MEMORABLE lines from movies. (Where I could reasonably determine the specific author of the line, I have cited it.)

Here’s looking at you, kid.” – Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart), Casablanca (1942). This line was improvised by Humphrey Bogart. He apparently used it while playing poker in between takes and then brought it to the screen.

Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” – Rhett Butler (Clark Gable), Gone with the Wind (1939). The line is often misquoted as having “Scarlett” in it; however, Rhett did not say her name. The line was written by author Margaret Mitchell in the novel without the word “frankly.”

I coulda been a contender.” – Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), On the Waterfront (1954). The line came from screenwriter Budd Schulberg. Brando certainly was a contender, winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for this performance.

Go ahead, make my day.”– Harry Callahan (Clint Eastwood), Sudden Impact (1983), written by Joseph Stinson. This line, along with “Do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” from Dirty Harry, are the most memorable from Clint Eastwood.

I’m ready for my close-up.” – Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson), Sunset Boulevard (1950). This is one of my best films ever. Yet, when I hear this line, I still find myself picturing Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman as Desmond and Max. Can anyone relate?

May the Force be with you.” – General Dodonna (Alex McCrindle) and Han Solo(Harrison Ford), Star Wars IV: A New Hope (1977) and once in every Star Wars film thereafter, written by George Lucas. Since it was said in every film, we can argue who should be pictured here. It was a toss-up for me between Harrison and Obi-Wan (the younger Ewan McGregor), but I went for the original.

Show me the money!” – Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), Jerry MacGuire (1996), written by Cameron Crowe. This line is best said jumping up and down like a crazy person. At least, it worked for Gooding; he snagged the Best Supporting Actor Oscar.

I’ll have what she’s having.” – Older Woman Customer (EstelleReiner), When Harry Met Sally(1989), written by Nora Ephron. If you guessed that it’s all in the family, you are correct. Director Rob Reiner gave his mother, Estelle Reiner, perhaps the best line of the film.

You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” – Chief Martin Brody (Roy Scheider), Jaws (1975). Often cited as “We’re gonna need a bigger boat,” it’s actually “you.” While I’m sure the writers would love to take credit, this movie line was ad-libbed by Roy Scheider.

I’ll be back.” – Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), The Terminator (1984), originally written in the script as “I’ll come back.” Thus began the inside joke for all of Schwarzenegger’s movies going forward, as he repeated this line over and over.

 

I see dead people.” – Cole Sear (Haley Joel Osment), The Sixth Sense (1999), written by M. Night Shyamalan. I don’t see dead people, and I haven’t seen this movie. All I know is that people keep saying this line.

 

I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.” – Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), The Wizard of Oz (1939), written by L. Frank Baum. It was rumored that Shirley Temple and Deanna Durbin were also considered for the part of Dorothy, but Judy Garland was destined to wear ruby red shoes and click them while saying another famous line: “There’s no place like home.”

Someof my faves are in the list above. However, I have other FAVORITES that may not be as memorable for others.

Dogs and cats, living together, mass hysteria!” – Dr. Peter Venkman (Bill Murray), Ghostbusters (1984), written by Dan Aykroyd and/or Harold Ramis. This line is apparently what is meant by a disaster of “biblical proportions.”

You can’t fight in here! This is the War Room.” – President Merkin Muffley (Peter Seller), Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to StopWorrying and Love the Bomb (1964). Irony of all ironies. I just LOVE this line.

I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.” -Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), The Silence of the Lambs (1991). Thomas Harris wrote in the original novel, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a big Amarone.” Do you know what Amarone is? I didn’t. It’s a red wine . . . you know, like chianti.

Face it, girls, I’m older and I have more insurance.” – Evelyn Couch (Kathy Bates), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), written by Fannie Flagg. Past-40, it’s true: You just don’t feel like getting pushed around anymore. Towanda, baby!

The world is full of guys. Be a man. Don’t be a guy.” – Corey Flood (Lili Taylor), Say Anything (1989), written by Cameron Crowe. If only all of the high school boys I had dated had listened to Corey Flood. Then again, I found a man to marry, so who cares?

What are some of your favorite movie lines? What memorable lines would you add to my list?

Sources: American Film Institute, Internet Movie Database, AMCFilmsite, Wikipedia (as a starting point; I double-check any information I glean from Wikipedia).

Friday Fiction: My Best Movies of All Time

I grew up in a movie-going family. We drove 30 minutes to the nearest theater to see the latest movies, watched films at home whenever they came on TV, and rented videotapes for viewing as soon as that technology became available.

The Paramount, Abilene, Texas

In college, one of the very best things about going to school in Abilene, Texas was the Paramount Theatre, built in 1930, renovated, and showing a classic film almost every weekend. It was there that I saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest and Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face.

Seeing that my family is full of list-makers, from time to time we would ask one another: “What are your 10 Best Movies of All Time?” I’ve probably given more thought to this complex and challenging question than figuring out who gets my stuff when I die someday. You can dispute the reasonableness of my priorities, but it’s an interesting line of inquiry nonetheless.

As usual, I can’t settle on a Top 10, but I have 12 movies that would make the list. My standard is that they are perfect films; I can’t think of anything to change to make them better. Here they are (in no particular order and with descriptions provided by the Internet Movie Database).

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). Archeologist and adventurer Indiana Jones is hired by the US government to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis. Starring Harrison Ford, Karen Black. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

When Harry Met Sally (1989). Harry and Sally have known each other for years, and are very good friends, but they fear sex would ruin the friendship. Starring Billy Crystal, Meg Ryan, Carrie Fisher, Bruno Kirby. Directed by Rob Reiner.

Ordinary People (1980). The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son. Starring Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore, Donald Sutherland. Directed by Robert Redford.

Singin’ in the Rain (1952). A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound. Starring Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen. Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly.

Sunset Boulevard (1950). Gloria Swanson, William Holden. A hack screenwriter writes a screenplay for a former silent-film star who has faded into Hollywood obscurity. Directed by Billy Wilder.

Rear Window (1954). A wheelchair bound photographer spies on his neighbors from his apartment window and becomes convinced one of them has committed murder. Starring Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly, Thelma Ritter. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

All About Eve (1950). An ingenue insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress and her circle of theater friends. Starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm. Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz.

Roman Holiday (1953). A bored and sheltered princess escapes her guardians and falls in love with an American newsman in Rome. Starring Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert. Directed by William Wilder.

Schlinder’s List (1993). In Poland during World War II, Oskar Schindler gradually becomes concerned for his Jewish workforce after witnessing their persecution by the Nazis. Starring Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley. Directed by Steven Spielberg.

A Room with a View (1986). When Lucy Honeychurch and chaperone Charlotte Bartlett find themselves in Florence with rooms without views, fellow guests Mr Emerson and son George step in to remedy the situation. Meeting the Emersons could change Lucy’s life forever but, once back in England, how will her experiences in Tuscany affect her marriage plans? Starring Maggie Smith, Helena Bonham Carter, Julian Sands, Simon Callow.

Dancer, Texas Pop. 81 (1998). Four guys, best friends, have grown up together in Dancer, Texas Pop. 81, a tiny town in West Texas. Years ago, they made a solemn vow to leave town together as soon as they graduate. Now, it’s that weekend and the time has come to “put up or shut up.” The clock is ticking and as all 81 people in the town watch, comment, offer advice and place bets, these four very different boys with unique backgrounds struggle with the biggest decision of their lives . . . whether to stay or leave home. Starring Breckin Meyer, Peter Facinelli, Eddie Mills, Ethan Embry. Directed by Tim McCanlies.

The Empire Strikes Back (1980). While Luke (Skywalker) takes advanced Jedi training from Yoda, his friends are relentlessly pursued by Darth Vader as part of his plan to capture Luke. Starring Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford. Directed by Irvin Kershner.

I wavered on whether to include a Star Wars flick, but I truly believe that episode was the best and could not have been improved in any way. As for the other selections, my taste runs from drama to suspense to humor.

So what movies would you deem to be the “Best of All Time”? Could you get your list down to a Top 10? Which of my movies do you agree with? Which ones do you disagree with? Are there movies on my list you haven’t seen? Doyou enjoy making Top 10 lists?

Friday Fiction: 4 Reasons Why Book Trumps Movie

You’ve been waiting for this moment for months!  You have purchased your ticket, bought your popcorn, found a seat in the exact center of the theater, and made it through twenty minutes of previews.  The film begins.

Two hours later, you toss the last popped kernel into your mouth, lazily stretch, and shuffle down the aisle desperately wanting your two hours back.  I mean, really: Did the filmmaker even read the book!

It’s a proverb we can all quote:  The movie is never as good as the book.

Why is that?  Here are a few reasons:

1.  Dramatic License.  The phrase “dramatic license” is often an excuse for the screenwriter, director, or producer to cast a whole new vision on a familiar book to communicate whatever is burning in their hearts or brains.  If, however, you loved the book, you don’t want the filmmakers to vary drastically from the original.  If they have a different tale to tell, they should make a different movie!

2.  Incompatible Casting.  If you envision a character a certain way after reading the book, and someone completely incongruous with that image is cast in the movie role, it can throw off the movie’s rhythm like giving a toddler a pair of drumsticks.

I submit that the reasons I could not watch more than the first film of the Twilight series and Lord of the Rings trilogy are Kristen Stewart and Elijah Wood.  Both of them struck me like limp toast acting on screen.  I couldn’t get past not believing either one of these actors in their roles.  It’s entirely my opinion – and there will be opposition to it – but ultimately, the actors cast in the movies didn’t suit the picture I had drawn in my mind from reading the novels.

3.  Too Much Editing.  Face it, an amazing 700-page novel cannot be properly conveyed on the screen in two hours.  One of the complaints that Harry Potter fans have voiced is that there is SO much left out of the movies that appears in the books.  Well, of course.  Let’s say you have a 300-page novel (maybe 75,000-ish words).  Quick internet research informed me that screenplays are about 100 pages (20,000-ish words).  That’s a big discrepancy.

I know the saying that “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  But not really.  Some things simply must get left out when retelling a story on screen.  Unfortunately, what gets omitted may be something which made that book so delightful to you in the first place.

4.  Imagination vs. Reality.  Imagine your perfect man.  (Didn’t we do this back in high school?)  He’s tall, broad-shouldered, rippling muscles, and athletic; intellectual, well-read, poetic, and creative; rich, generous, well-respected, and successful; romantic, sensual, attentive, and downright delicious.  Yeah, I can describe him, but that doesn’t make him real.  It’s like Paul Simon declared, “If you took all the girls I knew when I was single, put them all together for one night, they could never match my sweet imagination . . .”

When you imagine a story, it’s better than the reality.  Our imaginations are wonderful things.  When you read a brilliant novel, you can picture the whole thing, and it’s exactly how it should be.  Then someone renders a reality version.  And it isn’t the same.  It simply isn’t as good as your imagination.

By the way, when it comes to picking a husband, I recommend going with the real thing (Does that guy on the front of the Harlequin cover know how to change diapers? My hubby does!).  But for books, imagination is superior.

Actually, I have a few tips for helping you to enjoy a movie made from a book you’ve read:

1.  Make sure it’s been a while since you read the book.  If you still remember specific dialog, plot details, and character quirks, it’s too soon to see someone else’s interpretation.  Wait for the film to come out on DVD.

2.  Prepare yourself that the filmmaker may have had to cut out plot points, mesh a few characters into one, or ditch background story or world building in the interest of time.  You can still enjoy the surface story that the movie relates while separately cherishing the depth of the book.

3.  Find others who can relate (or commiserate).  It can be refreshing to discuss things you liked and didn’t like in a film compared to the book.  I have these discussions with my kids from time to time, asking what was different about the movie, how they would have cast the roles, and what they enjoyed about the book that didn’t show up in the film.

So now it’s your turn!  Do you have any additional reasons why the movie is never as good as the book?  Do you have examples of movies that were as good as the book, or that were not worth the cost of popcorn compared to the book?

(And while we’re at it, how is Water for Elephants?  I read and liked the book, and now I’m wondering whether to see the movie.)