So, I saw Catching Fire on Sunday and felt pretty much like Chester from the Nostalgia Critic‘s “Bum Reviews” – the latest of which, incidentally, is Catching Fire :) (beware of spoilers)

(P.S. the NC reviews – though not so much the Bum Reviews – tend to include much swearing, just so’s you know)

OH MY GOSH this is the greatest book-based movie I’ve ever seen in my LIFE!

Jennifer Lawrence HAS TO be nominated for Best Actress.  HAS.  TO.  Her facial expressions alone are some of the best things in these movies.

CatchingFire Katniss

And of course the movie itself has to get a Best Costume Design nomination, and Best Make-up/Hair Design, and best Visual Effects, and Cinematography…

CatchingFire butterfly combo

Seems Effie’s finally twigged that there’s something not quite so delightful about the Hunger Games.

CatchingFire fog

Katniss… you know everything in the arena is meant to kill you… so why would you try to touch the ominous mysterious fog instead of running immediately?!

And re: its faithfulness to the book– but hold on.  Isn’t this…?  Why yes!  This is my 100th post!  [pause for cheers]  Yes, yes, it is incredible, isn’t it?  Let’s just soak it all in, shall we?  Why, it feels like just yesterday  Sorry.  I was having an Effie moment there ^_^;  But srsly, this has been a fun experiment so far!  Three years ago I followed a link from someone’s comment signature on deviantArt (sadly, I don’t remember their username, or I’d give them a shout-out), and discovered there was such a thing as a book blog.  I already loved talking about my favorite books; I’d even had a small, primitive website years ago (via expages) where I listed all said favorites.  That might’ve actually been the only page.

But now I realized I could do something a little more sophisticated (a little :) ), and make it feel a little more like a job – or at least a project.  And thus was born Postcards from La-La Land, an official “What of it?” to anyone who’d ever looked askance at my choice to spend much of my time in the Juv/YA section; I even wrote my fifth post on “The Juv/YA stigma.”

Now I’m not only writing about selkies and unicorns and RenFaire outings here at Postcards; I’ve also had the opportunity to contribute to other book blogs, subbing for the awesometastic sj at Booksnobbery, and joining the contributing team at IB (both are more adult-audience-oriented sites with occasional swearing and, in the case of IB, \ge \!\, R-rated themes.  Just so’s ya know).  And on a related note, you can see how much skill I’ve developed in the art of shameless plugging! ;-D

Anyhoo, enough of that.  This post was supposed to be about how awesome Catching Fire was – but since this is a milestone and all, I feel like doing something a little more substantial.  So I’m going to list three of my favorite and three of my least favorite book-based movies.    

THE FAVORITES

1st place:  Catching Fire, because of the wonderful actors (I could go on and on about Plutarch and Haymitch and Effie and Cinna and Joanna, and Finnick…), costumes, sets, effects…and the umbrella over them all:  the movie’s faithfulness to its source material.  It’s the closest-to-the-book movie I’ve ever seen.  Just on the detail level, listen to Katniss’ conversation with Snow at the beginning.  It’s pretty much a word for word match with the book.  On a larger scale, the plot included everything I really wanted; the few small omissions (the story of Haymitch’s Hunger Games victory, for instance) didn’t bother me, because they weren’t necessary to the movie.  In the book, they added great context, but for a +/- 2-hour movie, they’d just be extra frosting on an already delicious cake.

2nd place:  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows pt 2  -  it’s certainly the best of the Harry Potter movies IMO, even though it still has some annoying omissions/changes (Whaddya mean, you’re harry-potter-and-the-deathly-hallows-part-ii-movie-poster-2011-1010705464not going to explain any more about Arianna Dumbledore?  And Ron and Hermione were NOT supposed to know about Harry going into the forest in that one scene.  Their reactions weren’t even touching or anything — they barely put up a fight!  Some friends!).  Despite those annoyances, it works just lovely as a finale, following the spirit if not the letter of the book.  I always get a little choked up during the “protego maxima” scene (where they build the dome over Hogwarts; it starts around 2:30).  I even feel fonder toward Slughorn in that moment.

Oh, and the music!  “Lily’s Theme” perfectly expresses the bittersweet feeling of finishing this wonderful, heartbreaking, epic story you’ve been immersed in for over ten years.

Here are some further thoughts from my Livejournal review back in 2011.  There are spoilers.

Howl'sMovingCastle poster3rd place:  Howl’s Moving Castle –  And now I shall perform the 180-degree flip!  I like this movie because it doesn’t follow the source material beyond its very basic concepts.  In fact, I’m kind of glad I saw the movie before I knew it was based on a book – saw it as a separate entity instead of having to think about how each scene does or doesn’t match the book.  With all due respect to Diana Wynne  Jones, Miyazaki’s version is more coherent.  In turn, the love story was more clearly developed.  As I said in my mini-review, if I hadn’t already seen the movie, the book’s romance element would’ve seemed out-of-left-field by the time I recognized it.

THE LEAST FAVORITES – in descending order of likeliness I’d watch them again.

Most likely:  The Clan of the Cave Bear:  So, I used to be kind of obsessed with Jean CotCBAuel’s Earth’s Children series in high school.  To this day, no other book on my shelf has as many creases in its spine as TCotCB did.  I was fascinated by the sign language system and the concept of shared memories that go back to the beginnings of humanity.  So when I saw the VHS with Daryl Hannah’s srs bsns face at my local video place, I was stoked!  Yes, I said stoked!

It was my first personally significant book-based movie experience.  Sure, I’d watched Bridge to Terabithia and To Kill a Mockingbird in school, but this was a movie whose existence I actually cared about (I know, I had such great literary taste).  And yes, there’d been the Sweet Valley High TV show, but I’m only talking about movies here.

So.  I rented that sucker and I put it in the VHS player, and I sat down, all butterflies-in-my-stomach and ready to see my favorite book happen in live-action.  [giant excited smile stays frozen for several long moments]  They mix-n-matched the timeline.  They turned that scene at the Clan Gathering, when the mog-urs have their going-back-through-the-memories ceremony, into something cheesy and cliché.  They Completely. Changed. The ending.

And yet I somehow considered the experience an overall enjoyable one.  Oh, I was appalled at the mixed-up chronology and the lack of mysticalness and how they freaking changed the ending!!  But I somehow decided I’d had fun watching it all.  I got to see Ayla and Iza and Creb and Uba and Broud and Brun and everyone, doing the things they did in the book – just not in the same order,  but hey, at least they were the same events!  Well, not exactly, but listen to that cool music!  That music is so cool!

A few months ago I found the movie on YouTube, and…it was kind of endearing.  It’s like an old home movie:  clearly low-budget (good grief, the wigs!), and not exactly Oscar-worthy acting (Daryl Hannah was alright.  There’s one small moment that sticks in my head – the way she says Iza’s name in the Death Curse scene.  It’s a small detail, but she sounds so genuinely plaintive).

And the music is still pretty cool.

Somewhat likely:  Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince:  Honestly, I had trouble deciding whether to put this in second or third place.  I feel more disappointment toward this one than toward the third-place movie…it’s certainly the most disappointing of the Harry Potter films.  Besides all the omissions and changes re: events in the book, it wasn’t even fun to watch as a movie – at least that’s how I felt when I first saw it in the theater.  On second or third watch, though, it didn’t seem so un-fun.  There were actually some really good parts, like the sea cave scene, and the late night visit to Hagrid’s (that thing Harry does, where he pretends his fingers are pincers, is hilarious).  And at least it follows the book more closely than the third-place movie.  A lot more closely.

Anyway, almost everything that bothers me about the HBP movie boils down to this:  it dilutes the book.  All of the scenes that are supposed to be intense and emotional feel watered down –

  • Hermione’s “Oppugno!” —  let’s de-italisize that, take out the exclamation point and have her just whisper the word, and then let the birds just vanish into the wall instead of continuing to attack Ron.
  • The Harry/Ginny kiss —  let’s forget the blazing eyes and running into his arms, and just make it one of those cliché teen-movie kisses.  And what’s that Ginny says?  Something like “You can keep me in here forever if you like”?  Score one for girl power, oh yeah!!
  • And the best one of them all:  “DON’T CALL ME COWARD.”  Yeah, let’s have Snape say that in regular old lower-case, as though he’s just brushing off a fly (“Don’t land there, these are brand new robes”).  It’s not like he has some tragic and guilty backstory that would make him react badly to any reminder of his mistakes.

Now, there was one other moment, besides the cave and the pincers, that I liked.  Loved, in fact.  And it just makes the movie’s lost potential that much more irksome.  By now, y’all know how much a single detail can matter to me.  [Spoilers ahead]  There’s this moment in the tower (it starts at 3:48).  For those few seconds, you’re almost relieved.  You think Dumbledore might’ve been right after all.  Snape is going to take charge and show that although he’s a jerk most of the time, and although you weren’t sure before about his allegiances, he’s ultimately got your back.  It’s like that moment in Prisoner of Azkaban, when the werewolf’s about to attack Harry, Ron, and Hermione, and Snape stops in the middle of telling Harry off to shield the three students.

Going back to HBP – what movie!Snape should’ve done next (since apparently movie!Dumbledore forgot or didn’t think it was necessary) was put some spell on Harry to paralyze and keep him silent.  Because no matter how seriously he promised Dumbledore he’d stay hidden, you can’t be sure Harry will just stare in silent shock when he sees Snape kill Dumbledore.  You can’t be sure he won’t instinctively cry out, whether in a brief Luke Skywalker “NO!” or the longer and more dramatic “NnnnnOOOOOOOOooooooo!!!!!” of Anakin Vader.  Which is exactly why book!Dumbledore does put a paralyzing spell on Harry; he knows the kid’s only human, and he can’t expect a sixteen-year-old to stay completely calm in these circumstances.  Especially if he has no idea what’s actually going on.

Eh…maybe.  Ella Enchanted:  Let’s take Gail Carson Levine’s unique interpretation of Cinderella, distill it to the most EllaEnchanted posterbasic concept, and then turn it into a dumb goofy comedy with bad acting and forced-in pop songs!  …*nose pinch*  The first time I saw this movie (on DVD, with my mom), I thought it was at least cute.  My mom did not – the moment they broke into a dance party ending, singing “Don’t Go Breakin’ My Heart,” she said to me:  “This is based on a book?  Don’t ever write a book like that.”  I quickly assured her that said book was actually very good; the movie just didn’t represent it well.  Like, at all.

I mean, it wasn’t offensively bad (I know some would vehemently disagree with me, and I totally understand your point).  Anne Hathaway does a decent enough job with what she’s given.  If I consider it completely apart from the book, the movie’s…still a dumb goofy comedy with bad acting and forced-in pop songs.  But it’s one of those things you could watch with a group of friends (hey, sj! An Ella Enchanted drinkalong? Eh?  No, wait! – we have to do a Labyrinth one first!  I already have a bottle of peach schnapps ready ;) ) and laugh together at all the ridiculousness.

A poisoned crown, seriously?

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Comments on: "Now THAT’S how you make a book-based movie!!" (2)

  1. Like your line-up…wish you all the best this Holiday Season….and much productive New year!!! Lily

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