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text SPOILER ALERT! 2020-04-07 00:42
Notes on Adaptation: Caging Skies
Caging Skies - Christine Leunens

This is really the Tale of Two Tales, with the shadow of a third lingering behind. 


Christine Leunens' "Caging Skies" is the novel from which Taika Waititi adapted his screenplay for "JoJo Rabbit" . . . and, if someone didn't tell you that fact, you may never guess. Yes, a little Viennese boy named Johannes is a Hitler Youth true-believer. Yes, his mother is secretly working with underground dissidents. Yes, a friend of Johannes' deceased sister is hiding in the family's attic. 


But is this novel a comedy about a little boy whose imaginary friend is Adolph Hitler? Does it make you laugh at evil and cry for the naiveté of youth? Not even a little bit. This novel owes far more to Kafka's "Metamorphosis" than to Mel Brooks any day.


Although the first part of the novel IS about a boy who resembles Waititi's JoJo, most of it is not. After JoJo is wounded, he turns surly and loses all humor. The novel becomes the story of a teenage boy -- and then a 20-something young man -- who falls in love with the young woman hidden in his home. As he loses all of his family, he bonds with the woman and keeps her tied to him, a prisoner of dependency and lies, for the rest of the war and more than a few years after. 


Interestingly, though, one motif the novel and film share is that of dancing -- to eerie effect. Through the novel, you can also follow motifs and symbolism of snails, caged birds, decaying houses, and bedridden people. 


So there is Leunens' "Caging Skies." And there is Waititi's "JoJo Rabbit." But I think there is easily another story here to be told: Elsa's story from her own point-of-view. How did she survive, and how badly did her experience affect her mind? "Caging Skies" is entirely from Johannes' point-of-view, so the damage to Elsa is very hard to discern. But it is certainly there. And the potential is fascinating.


Read it. Consider it.



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text 2018-01-17 02:08
Notes on Adaptation: Call Me by Your Name, Alternate Casting Edition
Call Me by Your Name: A Novel - André Ac... Call Me by Your Name: A Novel - André Aciman

Sometimes, when I read a book, a particular actor who might certain a character gets in my head and totally takes over. 


When I read "The Martian," it was absolutely Matt Damon as Mark Watney. Of course, that casting had already been announced. You can read more about my thoughts on that here: http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/1264907/notes-on-adaptation-the-martian-casting-edition.


A while before "Gone Girl" went into production, Ben Affleck - but blonder and younger - totally took over Nick Dunne's voice as I read. You can read more about that here: http://carissagreen50.booklikes.com/post/766885/some-thoughts-on-gone-girl.


Yesterday, I read Andre Aciman's "Call Me By Your Name," which, of course, has been adapted into a highly-regarded movie. I hope to see the film still this awards season. But it's possible I'll have to wait, as our small-town movie theaters often don't bring in "art films." Or perhaps it came and went during the period I was completely distracted with my recent move and the holidays. 


Either way, I'm well aware that Armie Hammer plays the 24-year-old professor, Oliver, who becomes the obsession of the 17-year-old Elio. But Mr. Hammer was NOT the face and voice who completely invaded my reading. 


Oliver was, for me, almost from his initial introduction, a (much) younger Jon Hamm - or perhaps a younger, '80s version of Hamm's "Mad Men" character Don Draper. Subtract 20 years and make him look a little bit more "ethnically Jewish" - maybe closer to the novelist Nathan Englander, for example - and that's who I saw. 


Sorry, Armie Hammer. I'm sure I'll enjoy what you did with the character. But for now, you're my "alternate casting." 



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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. 




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. 



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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. 





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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.)



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