Movie vs. Book: Part 2

I don’t normally do this, but there was something on my mind during last week’s post that I didn’t get a chance to talk about.  I couldn’t think of a way to fit it in with what I already had written down.  So here is essentially an addendum to last week’s post.

I wanted to take a little bit to talk about a movie that’s been stirring up a teeny bit of controversy lately, American Sniper.  If you haven’t heard of it, it’s based off the book of the same name, an autobiographical book by Chris Kyle.  From what I’ve heard and read about it (I haven’t read the book or seen the movie), it’s about his tours in the Middle East which made him one of the deadliest snipers in the history of the American military.

Controversy comes into play in the fact that Chris Kyle lied about some things.  He lied about punching Jesse Ventura in the face (as Ventura proved when he won the defamation suit against the Kyle family).  He lied about being sent to New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, where he claimed that he shot around thirty looters from atop the Super Dome.  He lied about the incident at the gas station, where he claimed he shot two men who tried to carjack him and was then released by police because of a phone call from someone high up in the government.  All of these instances have never been corroborated in any form, and Kyle himself said that some details in his book weren’t true in a deposition during the Ventura defamation case.  Kyle himself died before the outcome of the case, when he was shot and killed at a shooting range in Texas.

Now, before I continue, I feel I must address something.  I am not writing this as an attempt to slander or attack Chris Kyle in any way.  I point that out only because there are a lot of people on the conservative side of things who are taking great offense at anyone who criticizes the man or the movie based on him.  I am only offering the background on what I know, and what I know Chris Kyle probably lied about.  His case raises some interesting questions about book to movie adaptations, especially when adapting a book written about real life events.

What do you do when you’re adapting a source whose credibility comes into question?  How do you deal with the inconsistencies and the lies?  How do you know for sure that the truths are true?  It’s a complicated issue, because as we all know, when Hollywood starts making things “based on a true story”, creative license gets involved and suddenly the “true story” can get stretched all over the place.

In this case, Clint Eastwood (the director) decided to ignore the falsehoods in Kyle’s stories, choosing instead to focus solely on Kyle’s time overseas.  It was probably the smartest thing to do, given the circumstances.  But it raises its own issues, in that the movie might be painting Chris Kyle as an infallible hero instead of the fallible human he clearly was.  I’ve also heard that in the movie, Kyle is portrayed as being reluctant, or at least conflicted with what he has to do.  Now, according to some excerpts from the book, Kyle wasn’t very conflicted in reality.  In one of the excerpts I read, he shoots a kid with a gun, and after he watches the kid’s mother run up to his dead body, he remarks that if she really wanted to protect him she shouldn’t have let him join the insurgency.

So there’s the creative license coming into play.  But should this reflect badly on the movie for not accurately portraying Chris Kyle’s true demeanor and attitude towards what he was doing?

As I said last week, I don’t believe that a movie should be judged solely on how well it adapts the source material, because a movie can’t perfectly adapt a book.  It’s just not possible for many different reasons.  But this case is different, because instead of adapting a fictional book, Hollywood adapted a book that purported to be the truth.  And in ignoring the falsehoods in the book, it runs the risk of portraying Kyle as something he wasn’t in real life.  I don’t want to go and say that he wasn’t a hero, but there are things about his story that are questionable.

The way I see it, Eastwood had two options.  The first option was to include everything, including those things we know are most likely not true.  This runs the risk of making those incidents appear more believable, as well as glorifying killing in a disturbing way (the murder of the looters would have been the murder of Americans by an American, on American soil, which would raise a lot of disturbing questions and issues).  The second option, the one Eastwood took, was to leave out the falsehoods, focusing the story solely on his military service and his return home.  But as I said before, this runs the risk of portraying Chris Kyle as someone he wasn’t.  There really wasn’t a perfect solution here, so Eastwood had to make do with what he had.

It’s a frustrating situation, because while I believe that movies shouldn’t be judged by how they adapt a book, the situation is drastically different when the book is labeled as a true story.  It’s even more so when certain parts of the book have been proven false, because then a filmmaker runs the risk of portraying a false story as the truth.  It’s true that when Hollywood adapts something, creative license often comes into play, and many parts of the story are dressed up for better effect, but they’re still making an adaptation of a real-life story.  On some level, they have to keep it grounded within the reality of that story.  Imagine if the Eric Brockovich story had been revealed to be a complete fake.  Hollywood would have been in deep water because of their movie based off her story.  It’s healthy to be somewhat skeptical of a movie “based on a true story”, but on some level they have to be based in reality.

So if and when you watch American Sniper, just remember that this is Hollywood’s version of a story, and shouldn’t be taken as being one hundred percent true and accurate.  There is a fine distinction between the Hollywood reality, and the real reality.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a great week everyone.

 

Also, this is post number fifty on the blog.  Woot woot!  Milestone achieved.  Give me all the glory.  ALL OF IT.  I want it.  I WANT IT NOW.  GIVE IT TO ME.

 

I’m just gonna go now…

Advertisements

Movie vs. Book: The Unending Battle of Which is Better

Very recently I finished reading The Shining by Stephen King.  I remember I had seen the movie a long time ago, but I had never read the book itself.  And finishing the book, I was a little surprised at how different it is.  Those two creepy little girls from the movie (you know, “come play with us Danny…”)?  They aren’t in the book.  The elevator full of blood?  Nope.  The ending of the book is very different from the movie, and the book places a lot more emphasis on the hotel being an evil entity than the movie did (as far as I can remember).

But then I started wondering to myself, do these omissions make the movie better or worse than the book.  For most people, it seems that the general thought is that movie adaptations are never as good as the book, mostly because the movie has to leave things out for the sake of time (hardly anyone is going to watch a movie that’s like six hours long after all).  I used to think that way, that the book was always better than the movie.  But the thing is, there is so much more that goes into a movie than just adapting the source material.  It seems to be that judging a movie solely on how it matches the book is doing the movie a disservice.

Think about it this way.  A book sometimes takes a page or two to describe a place and how it feels right?  A movie can do that with their establishing shots, which usually last no more than like ten to fifteen seconds.  The way a movie functions is so different from a book that it seems silly to me to judge one based on how it adapts the other.

In my mind, a movie should be judged on how it does as a movie, not as an adaptation.  I mean, if they take the source material and make it about something entirely different that’s one matter (like if they made the Harry Potter movies all about Hagrid), but a lot of people don’t seem to understand that a movie can’t always fully adapt a book, not only due to length issues, but because of the way each medium functions.  A book uses written description to show you a character’s state of mind, whereas a movie can’t do that.  Instead, they have to focus on a visual representation of the character.  In the case of The Shining, it involved having Jack Nicholson slowly looking more deranged throughout the movie, before he finally starts chasing his wife and son throughout the hotel with an axe (interestingly enough, in the book it’s a mallet used for roque, a variation of croquet).

It’s hard to escape this adaptation mindset, considering Hollywood loves to adapt books into movies (like the Harry Potter books and The Hunger Games).  I don’t think it’s a bad thing necessarily, but we have to start taking the movie for what it is: a movie.  We have to stop judging the movie using the book as some sort of infallible source material.  I bet a lot of people would find The Shining incredibly dull (it’s over six hundred pages after all).  It moves slowly, and builds tension forever before things finally break down in the last couple hundred pages.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, but I know that a lot of people might not.  That’s where movies can come in.  A lot of people don’t have the patience to read a six hundred page book, so a two to three-hour movie would be much more their forte.

The point is that movies are their own thing.  They use a different language to convey the same ideas.  They show the atmosphere of a location rather than describing it.  It’s because of this fundamental difference that I can’t understand why people insist on holding the movie accountable to the book.  I mean, there are certain things that you can compare, like plot points and such, but in the end the movie should be judged as a movie.  And there are times when a movie can be stronger than a book.  Take Stephen King’s The Mist for example.  King himself praised the movie for its ending, which he felt was stronger than the book’s.

Another good example of this would be The Godfather.  In many ways, I feel that the movie is actually superior to the book.  It’s more focused for one.  The book takes a strange detour into the past of one of the characters after a pivotal moment in the present-time storyline.  This past segment actually becomes the plot for the second Godfather movie, if I remember correctly.  The first movie focuses solely on the present-day of the book, which keeps it focused and grounded, rather than having it suddenly jump into a new arc that serves very little purpose in the long run.  The Godfather is one of those instances where it is widely accepted that the movie is better than the book.

But in the end, I must stress again that a movie and a book are two very different formats.  They should each be judged by their own standards, rather than being pitted against each other in some kind of duel for supremacy.  Of course, we all have our own personal opinions on which version is better, but I feel that most people don’t give the movie version a fair shot because they’re constantly comparing it to the book.  If the movie falters as a movie, then it isn’t a good movie.  But it shouldn’t be considered a failure just because it didn’t adapt the source material in the particular way the viewer wanted.  Rather, it should be judged on how well it uses what it has to tell a story and what kind of story it tells.

A movie is a movie, and a book is a book.  I can’t put it any simpler than that.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a great week.

Why Open-Ended Constructive Criticism is Good and Necessary

So I was recently watching a video by one of my favorite Youtubers, and I came across a comment that irked me (yes I strayed below that unholy line into the Youtube comments section…god forgive me).  The comment basically said “if you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize the creator of the game”.  The game in question was a fan-made game that was a clone of another game called Five Nights at Freddy’s, a horror game where you play as a security guard monitoring security cameras on the night shift at a fictional Chuck E. Cheese style place.  In the game, the animatronic mascots wander around at night, and if they manage to get to you it’s game over.

Anyway, the game in question that I was watching was a straight up re-creation of that game, just with a different setting and different characters (and they’re actual ghosts this time instead of animatronics).  But my point is that I read that comment and found myself annoyed.  “If you can’t make anything better than don’t criticize”?  What kind of logic is that?  Does the game creator belong to some exclusive club where only the members can critique whatever he or she makes?

The whole point of criticism is to allow in viewpoints that you wouldn’t normally consider.  That’s how it works.  You want these different viewpoints, because it will help you craft your work into an even greater version of itself.  You can’t narrowly select the type of people you want to critique your stuff, otherwise you run the risk of getting inadequate feedback.  For example, if you’re a writer, you can’t just get critiques from other writers.  That’ll certainly help, but they’ll always look at your stuff through a writer’s perspective, meaning that they’ll normally focus mostly on stuff like grammar, punctuation, and word choice.  They might not give you feedback on plot development, characters they liked, or scenes that stuck out in their minds.  Getting feedback from someone not in your chosen field is a great way to get the viewpoint of someone who is in your potential audience, so to speak, someone who is looking at your work as a piece of entertainment rather than a lofty piece of art or expression.

Basically, even someone who maybe can’t write at all can still provide input on something they’ve read.  They’re not excluded on the sole basis of being unable to produce anything near the creator’s level.  That’s just plain stupid reasoning, used by people who just don’t want to deal with criticism in an open and honest way.

Think of it like this.  If we made criticism this elite club that only certain people could belong to, then what would be the point of free speech?  We would be constricting people’s throats, silencing them because we deem them “not worthy”.  Sure, there are people out there who have little more to say than “this sucks” or “ur a fagget”, but how do we silence the bad speech without stopping the good?  In a lot of ways, we have to let the jerks win to allow the truly decent people to win as well.  We can’t just create exceptions to the rules whenever we want.  It’s on us to separate out the mindless chatter from the critiques that are actually genuine and honest.  There will always be those people who just want to push others around, who take sick joy in making others feel bad (Schadenfreude is a fun word…German word by the way…).

We need constructive criticism because it helps us see the issues in our work that we may have missed.  As anyone with a passion project can tell you, sometimes you need a second set of eyes because you become too close to the work.  Even if you believe you aren’t blind to the flaws, you can still be overlooking things.  It’s a sad fact of human nature.  Our eyes will glaze over, so to speak, if we’ve been working on the same thing for too long.  That’s why it’s always recommended to take a break every once in a while, so you can come back to it with a fresh perspective.

So next time you see someone using that line of logic, remember that they’re probably just unwilling to deal with the criticism and so they’re most likely trying to distance themselves from it in whatever way possible.  Remember the importance of constructive criticism, and how it’s different from meaningless “this sucks” criticism.

Of course, if you are one of those people who believes that if you can’t make something better than don’t criticize?  Then I hate you.

Well…not really.  But I disagree with your sentiment because if everyone thought that way, criticism would serve no valid purpose anymore.  There would be no reason to criticize anything, because the people doing the criticizing would be a bunch of like-minded people with little to say.  You need those people from different walks of life and different fields of study because they show you different perspectives and ideas.  And they will see things that you didn’t.  That I can guarantee.

So I hope you can understand why I think the whole “don’t criticize unless you can do better” line is an absolute load of crap.

 

Well that’s all I have for this week.  Tune in next Wednesday for another post, and until then, have a wonderful week.

Music for Your Ears

So I’ve been sick these past few days, ever since Saturday.  I was basically couch-ridden all weekend with aches, chills, fever, coughing, and all manner of plain awfulness.  I blame the ten-year old kid we had with us over the holidays.  So you know…curse you and such for something you couldn’t possibly control.

Being that I am not fully one hundred percent yet I decided to do something a little easier this week (or at the very least simpler).  I originally thought that I would just pull off the top ten most played songs on my Itunes library and list them here, but I realized that Itunes isn’t always accurate with that stuff.  Some of the songs up there I haven’t listened to in years.  So I then decided to just find ten songs I really enjoy and list them for a post in no particular order.  So here goes.

 

1. Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked (Cage the Elephant)

Favorite Lyrics: Oh there ain’t no rest for the wicked

Money don’t grow on trees

I got bills to pay

I got mouths to feed

And ain’t nothing in this world for free…

 

 

I can’t remember when I first heard this song for sure.  I know that with the video game Borderlands using the song in its intro, the song became much more widely known, but I’m certain I had heard the song before that.  In any case the song is a catchy one, starting with just a small twangy guitar before adding in the familiar sounds of the rock genre.  It seems to me like the song speaks to certain shades of morality in the world, that sometimes people do bad things not because they want to, but because they have to.  Then there are people who do bad things simply because they enjoy it.  The song is worth a listen if you’re a fan of rock music.

Gotta say though, their music video is like a major drug trip.

 

 

2. Young Men Dead (The Black Angels)

Favorite LyricsRun for the hills pick up your feet and let’s go

We did our jobs pick up speed now let’s move

The trees can’t grow without the sun in their eyes

And we can’t live if we’re too afraid to die

 

 

Now this one I know exactly where I first heard it.  It was part of the soundtrack for Alan Wake, a game I deeply adore for its story.  In the game there are little radio broadcasts that you can listen to, and at the end of each it plays a song.  This was one of them, but I don’t think I really noticed it until I had already listened to the soundtrack that I got with my collector’s edition of the game (it was only twenty bucks more, and came in this cool case that looked like a book).

I’m not entirely sure what the song is about, but if I had to guess I would say a war or a revolution of some sort.  There are numerous references to soldiers and fighting throughout the song.  War is a common theme for the band, that’s for sure.

 

 

3. How Can I Be Sure (Anomie Belle)

Favorite Lyrics: How can I be sure… (because I can’t understand anything else she says in the song)

 

 

Another song I found through Alan Wake.  This is a really moody, bass heavy song that’s just plain haunting.  I remember the first time I heard it I felt chills go up my spine.  Since I can’t understand about ninety percent of everything else she says in the song, I have no idea what it’s about.  But it’s mesmerizing nonetheless.  Have a listen.  You won’t regret it.

 

 

4. Contact (Daft Punk)

Favorite Lyrics: I like the instrumental part (get it…because it’s almost ALL INSTRUMENTAL!  Sucker….)

 

 

This is one of the bands that I had known about for a long time because they are very popular with my generation in particular.  Daft Punk is an electronic band, and this song is from their most recent album.  It’s a weird song, beginning with a real life audio transcript from one of the Apollo missions (no joke, look it up).  I like this song because it’s epic.  And epic things are always good.

 

 

5. Sorry Go ‘Round (Poets of the Fall)

Favorite Lyrics: Oh the things you see

Make arrogance seem the way to be, yeah

When ignorance spreads comformity

Smiling happily

 

 

Poets of the Fall was one of the first bands I began to pursue on my own (most of my music collection up to then consisted of stuff I got from family and friends, along with soundtracks from various movies).  I first discovered them from the end credits song to the video game Max Payne 2.  I like this song a lot.  It has a good beat, and the chorus is catchy.  It’s also one of the few songs by the band that isn’t a love song of some sort.  I’m not entirely sure what it’s talking about, but I could see it being political in nature.  I really enjoy this band.  They have a way with lyrics that few others do.  They can make really mundane songs about love sound absolutely fantastic.

 

 

6. Machine Gun (Portishead)

Favorite Lyrics: If only I could see, return myself to me

And recognize the poison in my heart

There is no other place, no one else I face

The remedy will agree with how I feel

 

 

God I really do like the dark songs don’t I?

This is another song I discovered from a video game, specifically the trailer for Metro: Last Light.  It’s beautifully dark, and the singer is absolutely powerful.  She has such emotion in her voice when she sings, which is one of the reasons I really like the band.

I think the song deals with the concept of suicide, or at least that’s what I read about it.  It would make sense though.  The song seems to be speaking to the slow inner decay of the singer, and the worlds “the remedy will agree with how I feel” makes me think that she’s equating the coldness of suicide with the coldness of her own heart.  It’s definitely not a happy song, but not all songs need to be happy.  Its power lies in its bleakness.

 

 

7. Tears (Health)

Favorite Lyrics: Love, save us once

We’ll fall from where we crawled

Love, save us once

Beware what you want

 

 

You can thank Max Payne 3 for this one (I sure do find a lot of good songs in video games).  This song was originally used in a trailer and the TV commercials for the game, but it shows up during the climactic chapter as the main hero fights his way through the concourse of an airport as about two dozen private military goons rain lead down on him.  So yeah, it’s pretty epic.  And you know what my stance on epic things is (read number four).

It seems to me like the song might be about letting go of the past, which would make a lot of sense.  The game deals a lot with Max Payne’s fixation on the past, on the death of his wife and infant child.  It dulls him, so he keeps throwing himself into dangerous situations with little to no regard for his own well-being.  I feel like the song captures that despair very well.

 

 

8. More (Poets of the Fall)

Favorite Lyrics: You know it isn’t particularly funny

Killjoy walks in just when it’s turning sunny

Killjoy lives like it’s all about the money

It’s all about the money, it’s all about the money

It’s all about the money, it’s all about the money

 

 

Another Poets of the Fall song, this one obviously dealing with greed.  It’s also one of their more raw sounding songs, to the point of sounding angry (the whole album this song sits in is very raw too, which is quite a shift from their more melodic, softer sound that they normally have).  The whole point of the song to me is that living life like it’s all about money is the wrong way to live, which is something I wholeheartedly agree with.

 

 

9. The Night Before (Hooverphonic)

Favorite Lyrics: You are lying on the floor

Trying to remember,

What happened the night before

You, are you really that sure,

That I’m the prince who’ll wake you

 

 

Hooverphonic is a band that I’m betting few have heard of (I didn’t even know about them until Pandora spat out one of their songs to me, and I decided to investigate further).  They’re a Belgian band that started as a Trip Hop group (stuff like Anomie Belle, listed earlier), but quickly branched out.  Each of their albums sounds different, which is something I like a lot.

This song is particularly moody, and makes me think of either coming to the scene of a crime, or the aftermath of a drunken party.  I usually end up listening to this song right after the next one on this list, because they’re the first two songs of the album.

 

 

10. Anger Never Dies (Hooverphonic)

Favorite Lyrics: Anger never dies

It’s part of life, it’s part of you

The end will cease the fire

And make us accept we tend to lose

 

 

I know I said that I wasn’t placing these in a particular order, but I would be lying if I said that this was probably my favorite Hooverphonic song.  It has this epic quality to it that absolutely captivates me, not to mention that the title makes it sound perfect for a James Bond film (007: Anger Never Dies anyone?)  It just might be my favorite song on the list.

I’m not sure what it’s about, but it would be the perfect end song to a revenge movie don’t you think?

 

Well that’s all I have for you this week.  I hope you enjoyed this music sampling.  I felt like doing something a little more personal this week since I haven’t been feeling too hot recently.  Next week’s post will probably be more thought-provoking (I mean, as thought-provoking as you can get from a twenty-something guy who lives in Duluth, Minnesota).  Tune in next Wednesday at noon, and as always, have a wonderful week.