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review 2017-03-19 22:41
Notes on Adaptaion: Paterson/Tulsa Kid Rating
Tulsa Kid - Ron Padgett

Generally, I post a "Notes on Adaptation" column after seeing the adaptation, but this one's going to be a little bit different. 

 

After seeing the trailer for the film "Paterson" three or four times (in various theaters), I wanted to see this film about a poet. Being a faithful reader and sometimes writer of poetry made the urge even stronger. 

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m8pGJBgiiDU

 

So I read William Carlos Williams' collected "Paterson" (more about that in another post), and I sought out something by Ron Padgett, the poet who contributed work to the film "Paterson." 

 

I have access to three libraries, two community, and one university. Among those three, only one had any Padgett books (the university), and the only one of Mr. Padgett's books they had was "Tulsa Kid."

"Tulsa Kid" was published in 1979, and I wish any of my local libraries would have had a more recent volume, because this one was an immature work. I guess that's all there is to say about it. 

 

Except to note that it is doubtful the film "Paterson" will ever be shown in my city. 

 

-cg

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text SPOILER ALERT! 2017-02-10 02:41
Notes on Adaptation: Victoria after Victoria
Victoria: A Novel from the Creator/Writer of the Masterpiece Presentation on PBS - Daisy Goodwin

Daisy Goodwin's novelization of her "Victoria" miniseries ends with the engagement. So last Sunday's episode was the first "off book" installment. It covered the prenuptial negotiations and the wedding itself. 

 

Now, I don't expect adaptations like this to be perfectly historically accurate - although I do appreciate it when filmmakers get the easy things right. I've already complained about Lord Melbourne's hair - the famous historical blond here portrayed with Rufus Sewell's iconic dark curls instead. 

 

But Sunday's episode bent history in a way fewer people will catch - and is certainly disappointing. Like it or not, Goodwin's Victoria is a bit of a snippy brat - or bitch, if you feel she's outgrown the appellation of brat. And when she's discussing her wedding plans with the ladies-in-waiting, she is asked who will walk her down the aisle. Necessary, because the story must explain why "Uncle Leopold," kind of the Belgians, and the close male relative we've seen in all the episodes previous, can't do it. Victoria tells her ladies she supposes her "Uncle Sussex" will have to do it - even though the last time she saw him he was wearing a funny cap and rouge (what?). 

 

Snark, snark, snark. It fits Goodwin's characterization, but is it historical? I'm no expert in the period, but from what I understand, "Uncle Sussex," - Prince Augustus, Duke of Sussex - a younger brother to Victoria's late father, was a nice man and perhaps the actual Victoria's favorite uncle. He basically stayed above the fray as the Hanover brothers raced to make legitimate marriages and produce heirs after the death of poor Princess Charlotte and her baby. Perhaps because he was one of the youngest - but still.

 

Was the historical Victoria so unkind to a purported favorite? I hope not. Was the remark true to the adaptation. Yes, I guess it was. Was I disappointed to hear it? I certainly was. 

 

-cg

 

 

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review 2016-06-28 02:47
Notes on Adaptation: To Have and Have Not
To Have and Have Not (Scribner Classics) - Ernest Hemingway

This will be a combination "Notes on Adaptation" column and review of Hemingway's novel "To Have and Have Not." 

 

Generally, I prefer a book to its movie adaptation. The reading experience is richer, deeper, and more personal than the viewing. Many films have credible adaptations; a smaller percentage are outstanding. The film version of Hemingway's "To Have and Have Not" is that rarest of things - the adaptation that is much, much better than its book. 

 

The film is good. It's become part of film history and lore for being the place where Bogart met Bacall. She utters the famous line asking if "Steve" knows how to whistle. She smolders; he burns. It's all very delicious. The plot is "Casablanca" - lite. Just enough plausible intrigue to hold together an hour and a half of work by a good cast.

 

In addition to Bogart and Bacall, Walter Brennan plays a comic turn as a drunkard deckhand, and Hoagy Carmichael basically plays himself - a working musician. William Faulkner - yes THE William Faulkner - is one of the credited screenwriters. 

 

But aside from the opening sequence when the American fisherman, Johnson, has his last day of bad luck on the boat captained by Bogart's "Harry Morgan" character, the film resembles the book in almost no other way. And that's its saving grace. 

 

The book is set in the waters and taverns between Key West and Cuba in the 1930s at the height of the Great Depression. Its Harry Morgan is a fisherman turned rum-runner turned human smuggler on a bad luck streak. The film is set in the French Caribbean in 1940 and involves a reluctant Morgan smuggling Free French resistance fighters under the nose of the Vichy authorities (basically French Nazis). 

 

The book, I'm sure, attracts most of its readers on Hemingway's reputation. And maybe I give it an extra star or half-star for that, too. But it's utter garbage, Hemingway or not. It's a racist, misogynist text. Badly edited, for a Scribner's book, full of misspellings and bad capitalizations and other errors. Cheap comedy is played at the wrong time. The book undergoes jarring point-of-view shifts, and in the final third of the novel, a whole bunch of confusing characters who have pretty much nothing to do with anything are introduced and carry what little story there is to the end. 

 

What could have been a story of pathos of men living on the edge during the Depression is just an ugly mess. If you must read it, imagine all of Morgan's sections in Bogart's accent. It helps. A little. 

 

If you want to tell me what you think, just whistle. "You know how to whistle, don't you?" (That's not in the book at all.)

 

-cg

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text 2016-02-29 00:45
Notes on Adaptation: Carol
The Price of Salt - Patricia Highsmith

I haven't had the opportunity to see "Carol" yet - it hasn't opened in a theatre in my city nor the city 75 miles away from me that actually has an "art house" theatre. But I have read the book on which it was based, "The Price of Salt" by Patricia Highsmith.

 

I was assigned the book in an undergraduate English course more than 20 years ago, in the early '90s. And I had one of the most visceral reactions I've ever had to a book in my life up until that point. I'd like to think it wasn't because of the lesbian theme - I have had gay and lesbian friends from my teenage years on and been pro-equal rights for just as long. And the reason our professor assigned it, she said, was because the book was the first mainstream novel to treat a same-sex relationship as something other than a tragedy. Good enough reason for me. 

 

Truly, though, I thought the writing was creepy. The dialogue seemed contrived - not the things two flirting people would say to each other, authentically, even back in the '50s. And really bizarre things happen, like using a maxi pad to stanch a cut on the leg (what kind of weird Robert Bly symbolism was that?). I remember thinking "Bleh." 

 

Well, we've come a long way in the ensuing 25 years. I'm looking forward to seeing "Carol," and perhaps I owe "The Price of Salt" another look.

 

-cg

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text 2016-02-29 00:30
Notes on Adaptation: The Big Short
The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine - Michael Lewis

I didn't love the film "The Big Short" as much as some people did, but I did like it. I could have done without the montages of stock footage and close-ups of "strippers." 

 

But we have to talk about Michael Lewis. He is so gifted at taking subjects that can be difficult to understand - finance, statistics - and making them accessible to a lay reader. Even if you don't care to see "The Big Short," read the book - it's entertaining, and you'll "get it."

 

Here's the thing that happens in the adaptation: Lewis's explanations are taken over by semi-famous people doing unusual stuff - Margot Robbie in a bathtub; Anthony Bourdain making fish stew, etc. It's clever. In its way. Good times. Good times. 

 

The other notable thing about this film as an adaptation is that the names of all of the persons in Lewis' book have been changed, except for Michael Burry (Christian Bale's character). 

 

-cg

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