Holiday Gift Guide 2007: the movie edition

November 27, 2007

By now, you’ve probably seen at least several hundred of these (I could be exaggerating – but sadly, or disturbingly, I don’t think so). But hey, what’s one more to add to the pile?

See, I like to wait until the web is totally oversaturated with exactly the same content to publish my own contribution to the excess. Or for the precise moment when many people don’t even want to think about shopping for a whole ‘nother week after spending six hours standing outside of Best Buy in the wee hours of the morning after Thanksgiving (you know who you are) – and then walking home, uphill, hopefully in the snow. In any case, I find it much more thrillingly extraneous that way. Or so I tell myself.

With that said, here are some of my own recommendations for what to get that incurable movie fanatic you know and love. I mean, there’s bound to be at least one in every family, right? Or am I just writing my own holiday wish list? Well, either way – hopefully my family is paying attention…

(all prices are retail, and thus pre-any sort of discount, such as the standard Amazon deductions)

Stocking stuffers

Or gifts for the other seven nights. Or, well, whatever the case may be. You get the idea.

Pure fun miscellany – If you’re in New York, buy a can of EVIL, some powdered antimatter and other superhero stuff at the Brooklyn Superhero Supply Store. If you’re in San Francisco, buy pirate goodies at the Pirate Supply Store. Seattle: space travel necessities at the Greenwood Space Travel Supply Co. LA or Ann Arbor: time travel essentials (Echo Park Time Travel Mart) and monsters-in-your-closet supplies (The International Monsters Union) respectively.

Sound far-fetched? Fortunately for kids at heart everywhere (and, of course, actual kids), it’s not! For more information on these real life stores, click here.

Gift cards – If you don’t live in any of these cities, or don’t have easy access to one of them, there are, of course, many alternatives.

A Netflix gift subscription is always a fun option (and addictive, I’m on my, um, 23rd month or so past the three I originally got as a gift), and a gift certificate for a movie theater chain is easy, affordable and flexible. Almost all movie theaters have them, even the most staunchly independent ones. With ticket prices soaring to $11 (and no matinees) in cities like New York, and that’s not including the $4.50 small popcorn, your friend or family member will thank you.

And of course, finally, an iTunes gift certificate will let them download their favorite movies onto that new iPod nano you caved in and got them.

The book Cinescopes: what your favorite movies reveal about you – One of those “laugh over after opening and then forget” presents (we’ve all gotten them), it’s nonetheless the type of gift we all need during holiday bonding time with the family. $14.95 at Kitson.

DVDs – Basic, yes, but certainly not the easy way out. Individual DVDs are the fun, simple item that many people want but don’t want to actually spend the extra cash on to get themselves. I mean, really, you’re doing them a favor.

Solid

Candy Princess Kit – If you just can’t deal with one more Disney Princesses toy in your home, but someone you know is desperate for something royal after seeing Enchanted, try this fun gift basket ($50) from the famous Willy Wonka-esque candy store, Dylan’s Candy Bar. Sure, you won’t be able to drag the recipient from the walls, but most of it will probably be gone by the next morning. It includes pretty much everything you could ever think of that involves a Disney princess and sugar.

Film journal – I think we can all agree that no one actually uses these, apart from that diligently filled out first entry, of course. But if you have a Phoebe Cates fan on your list, you can cleverly point out that this elegant film journal ($45.00) came from her boutique in New York. That’s practically 3 degrees of separation!

Books and graphic novels – Sure, books that have recently been turned into films make great gifts, but if you understandably want to avoid the “Oh… Great… A book… Thanks…” response, check out these bound alternatives.

Stardust – The fairy tale (but not, I repeat not, with Disney’s G-rated fairies) graphic novel on which the Claire Danes, Robert DeNiro and Michelle Pfeiffer special effects flight of fancy is based.

300 – Before it was an ultraviolent, testerone-fueled box office heavyweight, it was an ultraviolent, testerone-fueled graphic novel about the historic battle of Thermopylae in ancient Greece (it’s almost an educational book, really…). Other novels by Hollywood golden boy Frank Miller that have been adapted into film: Sin City and The Dark Knight Returns (not directly, but still very influential; see Tim Burton’s Batman)

Scott Pilgrim – Get a jump start on this 2009 film by reading the indie graphic novel on which it’s based. A boy must fight off his new girlfriend’s 7 evil exes – tongue-in-cheek, martial arts video game style. Vol. 4 just came out, but for you newbies, start with – what else? – Vol. 1.

Pretty much anything by Alan Moore – Disgruntled Hollywood golden boy Moore has written the graphic novels that inspired The League of Extraordinary Gentleman, V for Vendetta, From Hell, and the upcoming Watchmen (2009).

If books are in the cards, however, try these:

His Dark Materials – Controversy or not, these elegant, and at times emotionally wrenching, tales for young adults are a must for fantasy fans. The first book in this three volume series by Philip Pullman is the basis for the new Golden Compass epic film.

No Country for Old Men – It has certainly been Cormac McCarthy’s year. Between the Pulitzer and Oprah’s Book Club selection for his bleak The Road and the critical acclaim for the film adaptation of No Country‘s disturbing tale, McCarthy is having a good holiday.

Beowulf – Lure them in with Angelina Jolie, keep them (for a time at least) with Seamus Heaney’s actually intelligible translation of the classic English poem. And no, this is not just my own revenge for having to read this in high school – after all, my class didn’t just read it. We had to listen to it read to us in Old English, with a lyre, for hours. Well, maybe I should take back that revenge comment…

Why not?

“Ultimate” DVD collections – They’re hefty, pricey and they’ve got that “cool, lots of stuff” factor. As a very early collector of the comics, I’m partial to the Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($99.98 – but phew, not $100!), which comes with 14 discs (including the Richard Donner version of Superman II and loads of extras) and total non-portability.

But perhaps your gift recipient is a Bond fan? Check out the James Bond Ultimate Collector’s Set ($289.98) with its whopping 42 discs (Never Say Never Again and other “unofficials” not included).

As for me, I’m actually hoping for the collector’s set of Buffy the Vampire Slayer – was that too subtle of a hint? Mom?

Other “Ultimates”:
Blade Runner Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($78.92) comes in one of those super spy, I’m handcuffed to this, shiny metal briefcases. Ooo, shiny.
Essential Art House – 50 Years of Janus Films ($850) might break the bank, but with 50 discs, you get a huge slice of indie film history all in one place.

Portable DVD player – A bit of a classic but always a good choice. I got one of these (plus that Netflix subscription) one year for the holidays and it was the best day (almost better than a basket of mini-muffins – sorry, in an oblique references to Friends mood) … Ah, materialism. For one that will last you beyond the next year’s holiday season, expect to pay about $150 and up.

Movie magazine subscription – Something they will literally enjoy (or at least receive) for a year. They range from mainstream (Entertainment Weekly) to humorously British (my favorite, Empire) to Hollywood (Variety). Depending on seasonal offers, a year’s subscription can run anywhere from about $20-40 (EW) to over $150 (international subscribers to Empire). For more film magazine options, click here.

Video editing software – For the aspiring filmmaker. Expect to pay around $70-$100 (from what I can tell). For help picking the right one (who can tell them all apart? capability to do what exactly?), if your budding director hasn’t given you very specific requests, go here for PC Mag’s detailed guide to buying video editing software.

The holidays only come once a year… right?

Maya and RenderMan – If you know someone who is really (really, really) into 3D animation – like, “Pixar or bust” into animation – then they are probably drooling over these computer programs, if they don’t have them already. Autodesk’s Maya software, “the current king-of-the-hill in high-end 3D animation software” (according to 3DRender.com), is the program to beat, and since you can’t get more name-brand than Pixar, throw the 3D animation king’s own rendering software into the mix as well with their RenderMan for Maya product.

Of course, you get what you pay for, and sadly, you will pay for these products: at about $4,000 and $1,000 respectively, these pricey animation gifts clearly eliminate any need for additional stocking stuffers – or any gifts for the next 10 years, for that matter.

James Bond accessories – Sure, that Ultimate DVD set is nice and all, but why just watch Bond when you can look like him? Check out Bond Lifestyle to find the stuff that the movie spy and his associates actually use and wear. Items range from the Omega watch seen in Casino Royale (about $2,500) to Brioni suits ($5,000-ish) to a sterling silver Aston Martin keychain (approx. $400).

The site also includes a list of the watches worn in the 007 films. They probably won’t shoot darts or help unzip a dress (not literally anyway), but nothing’s perfect. For a history of Bond watches, click here.

That Ferrari you’ve always wanted

Now that winning a part in a Will Ferrell movie is off the market, what gifts are there for a movie lover to dream about – or actually purchase, for those ridiculously wealthy people out there (any lottery ticket now!)?

Design your own Star Trek apartment – Although the original sold for over $800,000, get your own room, house or apartment transformed into an insanely authentic replica of the Star Trek starship by the guy who built it. No joke – if you haven’t seen pictures of what this guy did to his apartment, click here now to visit his official “24th Century Interior Design” website.

Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane Oscar – On December 11th, Sotheby’s is auctioning off the only Oscar that this über-acclaimed flick ever won (believe it or not): Best Writing, Original Screenplay. The Oscar was shared by Welles and Herman Mankiewicz. It’s expected to fetch around $1 million, but $800,000 at the very least. Steep, you say? Well, there’s nothing like literally holding Oscar glory in the palm of your hand. Or at least, Sotheby’s hopes so.

Home movie theater – Sure, that 60″ flat screen is nice, but really, it’s got nothing on a full-on luxury movie theater in your own home. In the US, companies like Gramophone, Sound Image and New England’s Home Entertainment Expo will design you a seriously jealousy-enducing home theater. Think huge leather chairs, fully integrated sound system, paneled walls, high definition lowered screen, and those essential movie curtain drapes. MTV Cribs will be knocking down your door within weeks – if they aren’t busy with those Star Trek-inspired homes of course.

If you don’t want to go quite this far, check out about.com’s list of movie theater accessories (from a projection screen to a vintage popcorn maker – nothing like the smell of popcorn throughout your entire house to make you feel that the expense was totally worth it).

Or go for the sleek accent look and purchase these stage / movie – style polished steel light fixtures from NY boutique staple, Mxyplyzyk (yep, named after that dimensional Superman villain, and it’s pronounced mix-ee-pliz-ik according to the store).

** For more similar, exactly the same and not so similar gift suggestions for movie fans, see Jenny Lauck’s thoughtful list. Also check out Moviefone’s gift guide. It’s a lot less practical than Lauck’s (think “Dumbledore gay pride” t-shirts), but, as a result, great eye candy and perfect fodder for internet procrastination. I know I at least am definitely getting that voice-changing Optimus Prime helmet for a, um, friend.

Advertisements

The weirdest villains in film

November 14, 2007

In a recent review for the film American Gangster, the LA Times included a fun little photo gallery of what they considered “more unusual choices for organized crime bosses.” Their picks include Jabba the Hut (can’t argue with them there…) and Don Lino (aka, the voice of Robert DeNiro) in the animated Shark Tale.

And while that’s fun and all, what about those other outcasts from the population of ne’er-do-wells whose chosen occupations sadly don’t fall into the realm of organized crime? Shouldn’t they get their say as well?

Here, then, are some of my favorite villainous oddballs:

WARNING: some contain SPOILERS (read with care…)

Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons) – Something about those spindly legs just really creeps me out and to top it all off, the true villain is the mechanical bowler hat itself (uh huh, a bowler hat) that’s telling him what to do. Ick.

Yzma and Kronk (Emperor’s New Groove) – The first looks like some sort of waspish spider and has a weird thing for llamas. The second is a sidekick who hums his own theme song and happily cooks spinach puffs right in the middle of an evil plot. And when Yzma cackles evilly as a cute little kitten? Priceless.

The Penguin (Batman Returns) – Okay, true, in Batman, Jack Nicholson’s The Joker is mighty odd and, yes, totally insane. But he’s got a kind of sense of humor (in a creepy way) and, well… it’s Jack Nicholson. He’s his own kind of weird. In any case, unlike the Penguin in the original comics who was rather cool-headed, refined and quite intelligent, the Penguin in Batman Returns is, as the Wikipedia entry puts it, “a physically deformed, sadistic, megalomaniacal monster.” Plus, he hangs around with penguins all the time. Literally. I think that qualifies him.

The Wicked Witch of the West (Wizard of Oz) – She melts and her henchmen are flying monkeys. Enough said.

The Claw (Toy Story) – Who knew the fun selector of children’s stuffed animals could be such a bizarre nightmarish creature? Not forgetting of course that The Claw is also a completely emotionless cult leader who gets his brainwashed followers to chant “The Claw is our master. The claw chooses who will go and who will stay.” And leads them to believe that being “chosen” will take them to “a better place.” Scary, scary stuff.

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) – As an artificial intelligence, this decidedly creepy villain is nothing but a voice and an oddly pulsating red glow. And really, there isn’t much that is scarier and more goosebumpily bizarre than a villain who never, ever raises his voice.

The Emperor (Star Wars) – Why is it that the names of many evil villains begin with a definite article? I suppose we’ll never really know, but I think it’s clear that this villain at least certainly deserves to have a name that begins with an emphatic “the.” With his ghoulish voice and eerie cackle, not to mention that blue lightning thing he can do with his hands, the Emperor is both evil and just plain strange. Darth Vader has got that cool strong man / deep voice in black metal vibe going on, but the Emperor has an omnipresent cowl and cooky sense of humor. He wins.

Assorted Amélie villains (Amélie / Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) – Perhaps not villains per se, if you want to get technical, but they are all weird and/or mysteriously odd people. So I think they should get their chance too. First, there’s the almost (okay, total) stalker guy from the café who records everything his ex-girlfriend says or does. Then, there’s the obnoxious and cruel grocer who delights in tormenting the boy who works for him and always calls Amélie “Amélie-melo.” And finally, there’s the ghost / possible obsessive picture taker whose eerie mystery haunts the film. Quite the goldmine of weird scoundrels, n’est-ce pas?

No Face (Spirited Away) – Half leprechaun, half “The Blob,” this gold-giving masked spirit vies (successfully, in my opinion) with the witch Yubaba for the title of baddest, largest, most complex, and just downright crazy villain in this spooky Japanese fairy tale.

The Cat King (The Cat Returns) – Pretty much demented, yet still a powerful ruler over, uh, cats, this rotund monarch has “I am CRAZY” eyes, static-style hair and calls the heroine “babe.” And he throws unfortunate palace performers out the window when they can’t make his guest smile. Weird and psychopathic – a winning combination for this list.

Lord Voldemort (pretty much any Harry Potter film) – Let’s recap, shall we? In the first film, he was a face on the back of someone’s head. In the second film, he was a ghost from a diary. In the third film, um… Okay, well, in the fourth film, he was a seriously creepy baby-like creature who transformed out of a boiling cauldron into a noseless man. In the fifth film and (I’m assuming) on, he’s that same snakelike, pasty-faced, noseless man. Yep, I think I’ve made my point…

Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) – This is a bit of a given. And with a medical degree in Evil, he’s earned it.

Honorable mentions: Stay Puft (Ghostbusters), the Black Knight and the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), coat hanger aficionado Toht (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark), and potentially Grendel’s mother (the animated Angelina Jolie) in the upcoming Beowulf.


Green Lantern movie

November 8, 2007

Well, it’s about time! Apparently, finally, Warner Bros. is on the path to making a film about Green Lantern, one of the last old superheroes left to adapt on screen. The Hollywood Reporter recently, uh, reported that:

“Everwood” creator Greg Berlanti has signed a deal to co-write and direct a live-action adaptation of DC Comics’ superhero “Green Lantern” for Warner Bros.

Marc Guggenheim and Michael Green also are writing the script, with Donald De Line on board to produce.

So who are these Marc, Michael and Greg people? Well, Greg seems to be one of the go-to guys for television, having worked on – besides EverwoodDawson’s Creek, Jack & Bobby, Dirty Sexy Money, and Brothers and Sisters. He also has a new drama coming soon to ABC called Eli Stone.

Marc has written for Marvel and DC Comics, as well as for TV (including, unfortunately, CSI: Miami…), and Michael has also written for TV (Heroes and Smallville – phew!) and, naturally, comics.

Of course, this is all assuming that any film and TV writers will ever write again… okay, yes, that’s a bit of a hyperbole, but still, here’s hoping the film’s production schedule is flexible!

Click here for some of Marc’s thoughts on the strike.

And no word on whether or not this will work in conjunction with the new Justice League of America movie, although the team behind that film doesn’t seem too keen on cross-promotion, considering their total non-interest in hiring Christian Bale or Brandon Routh (although potentially Tom Welling?).


Quotes – MST3K: The Movie

October 12, 2007

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie – ah, nostalgia for the days when my old worn out tape of this film was still actually working. Darn you, no longer distributed DVD! (but hey, what’s $130 for a used copy on Amazon?)

Here are some fun MST3K quotes that help remind me of the good ol’ days:

“Let’s slip away under cover of afternoon in the biggest car in the county!”

“Self-cleaning mutant. Leaves only the fresh scent of pine.”

“O.K., let’s see, Shatner, Shatner… no, it doesn’t look like he’s in this one… We’re safe.”

“Into the weenie mobile. Weenie man awaaaay!”

“Well, believe me, Mike, I calculated the odds of this succeeding versus the odds that I was doing something incredibly stupid… and I went ahead anyway.”

[dramatic music] “Normal view. Normal view! NORMAL VIEEEWWW!”

“Big men putting screwdrivers into things! Turning them! And adjusting them!”

“And if your hands were metal, that would mean something.”

– This isn’t paper. It’s some sort of metal! – No, sir, that’s paper.

For more quotes, visit IMDB, Wikiquote or, um, Mutant Reviewers from Hell (hey, I know they’ve got my attention!)

About the movie: MST3K: The Movie follows in the tradition of the cult TV show by picking a movie and then making humorous comments throughout a viewing of it. The victim for the feature film was This Island Earth, a cooky sci fi film about aliens with large foreheads from 1955 (and yes, that is the Professor from Gilligan’s Island as scientist Steve Carlson).

As an aside, my boyfriend saw This Island Earth (sans commentary) at a recent sci fi film festival in New York and said that, without the peanut gallery, it’s just, well, awful. Ah well. You still gotta feel bad for it.

This Island Earth


Best blogs from movie celebrities

October 2, 2007

With so many blogs on entertainment these days, how do you know where to go to get the juiciest stuff? (besides, obviously, going to this blog!) You go straight to the source, of course! For better or for, well, worse, many celebrities, or at least people who would kind of look familiar if you saw them on the street, are actually blogging.

Here are some of the best entertainer blogs out there, organized, most conveniently if I do say so myself, into easy referencing categories:

Quirky fun – is there anything better?

Kevin Smith (My Boring-Ass Life) – From the wealth of content here, some might argue not so boring, but in either case, this blog features relatively regular posts (up to a couple times a week) from the man behind Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Mallrats, and, of course, the whole Jay and Silent Bob saga regarding what he is up to these days. Features lots and lots of pictures, long posts and helpful information about Smith’s new projects and appearances – all told, naturally, with his signature dry, self-deprecating, casually R-rated humor.

Zach Braff – More down-to-earth chatter from that quirky guy from Scrubs and Garden State. Yes, he has “shameless plugs” (his words, not mine) in his blog, and not just in their officially designated area, but they’re scattered amongst (unfortunately infrequent – about once a month) blog posts full of funny and casual chatter. Skip past the seemingly obligatory “sorry it’s been awhile” at the top of each post and you’ll find cool nuggets of fun. My favorite – Zach’s answers to posted questions:

Answers to questions:
No
Yes
Cinnamon raisin.
That sounds like it would hurt me. No thanks.
Wrinkly, like a stone mason’s elbow.
I have several.
It depends; if it’s itching and burning, I would see a doctor.

Also included in the blog: videos, his favorite music, and yes, “Shameless Plugs.”

Funny or Die – Okay, yes, not technically a blog, but it does include a blog! (So ha!) This video site from Gary Sanchez Productions, a production company run by Will Ferrell, Adam McKay (SNL writer, director Talladega Nights and Anchorman) and Chris Henchy (producer on Entourage), features original comedy videos from Ferrell and other celebrity guests as well as user-generated content. Users vote on which videos are funny and which, alas, are not and thus deserve to die (get it – funny… or die?). The blog itself features such gems as:

I spent the last week in Reno and it was great. I went there with some eyeshadow and a dream and came back with a vanity license plate, a sprained ankle and a new husband, one Mr. Rowdy Roddy Piper.

Just for the suspense

Matt Groening – Is it a blog? Maybe a Simpsons archive? The future site for a new version of Mr. X? Or, gasp, a top secret storage space for as yet unaired Simpsons scripts? Sigh. We may never know. As Matt Groening himself says, according to simpsonsfolder.com:

I’ve reserved mattgroening.com. (Laughs) It’s said “This Site Is Under Construction” for three years now. I’ll get around to it. I know how disappointed I am when I go to a Web site and nothing has changed, and until I’m ready to wade in on a regular basis, I’m holding back.

Well, I suppose we’ll have to take his word for it. For now.

Voted Most Likely to Succeed

Wil Wheaton – If you’re a recent convert to the movie blogosphere, this name might not sound familiar, but for an actor who once starred in Stand by Me (1986) and Star Trek, Wil Wheaton has quickly become what the New York Times (not too shabby of a reference) called “a quirky star of the blogosphere” in 2005. With an important dose of that ever-popular self-deprecating humor, Wil’s blog features frequent posts (almost every day or so), pictures and favorite music. For you Alexaholics (you know who you are), his Alex rank currently stands at 110, 149, which ain’t too bad for a random blog. The blog is currently up for a Lifetime Achievement Award in the 2007 Bloggies.

The Omnipresence Award

Rosie O’Donnell – People are just going crazy over this thing. Now admittedly, the recent scandal can’t have hurt, but it certainly does feel like everything really is coming up Rosie (sorry, it was just too easy). Quotes from the blog, pretty much Rosie’s personal press agent at this point, pop up all over the news media (“on her personal blog,” “in a post on her official blog,” etc. etc. You get the idea). The blog itself is a tribute to all things Rosie, presented in that classic Internet format (i.e., no caps or punctuation) and in, well, poetry, plus photos, videos, links to her charities, and, of course, her gift shop. Posts are impressively frequent for a celebrity blogger – essentially every day. The blog currently has the most votes for “Best Celebrity Blogger” at the Blogger’s Choice Awards.

For “flans”-in-training (and those who understand what that means)

Nathan Fillion – The charismatic star of the cult film Serenity (and the Joss Whedon show, Firefly, on which the movie was based) writes every month or so on his MySpace blog about his life, interests and the crazy world around him. His down-home, direct talk is funny and refreshing and makes for an enjoyable read, although you may struggle not to be jealous as he describes his visit to the only paper supply office truly worth visiting:

I had lunch at the Office a few weeks ago. The Annex, the kitchen, the office itself- it’s all real! There is so much space between Pam’s desk and Dwight’s that I never knew about. I rummaged through Michael’s safe. I watched as cast members updated their myspace pages and checked their emails while on lunch, but at their character’s desks! Can you believe it? Now, many of you may have weirded out- sputtering stupid things excitedly while being ushered around on a first class tour. I’ll have you know… I’m not above that. Thank you, Jenna, for putting up with the high pitched squels [sic] of excitement, the stupid questions, and demanding that you answer as Pam.

And just cuz I can’t resist plugging it, if you’re as into The Office as Nathan here, and especially if you’re not into it at all, check out Jenna (aka, Jenna Fischer – Pam Beesley)’s own MySpace blog on my blogroll.

For the Faerie in you

Neil Gaiman – The award-winning author of illustrated fantasy works like The Sandman and Stardust (yep, the one that recent film is based on) and the co-author of the new Beowulf film shares his many, naturally well-worded, thoughts on his life, works, appearances, and other projects, and answers questions from fans and others. There are also lots of extras: book excerpts, interviews, essays, background info on some of his books, a schedule of his appearances, various message boards, and so on.

In memorium

Quentin Tarantino – The now-defunct diary of “QT.” Sure, it was fake, but hey, nobody’s perfect, right? And it certainly had its crazy day in the sun while it lasted.

Misc.

Other celebrities with a will to blog:

David Hewlett – The guy from Stargate: Atlantis (Dr. McKay) and the director of the recent independent film A Dog’s Breakfast shares his thoughts, and promotes his film, at this well-liked blog.

Michael Moore – The documentary star finally finds a way to express himself.

William Shatner – How could this guy not have a blog, I ask you? Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder.

The Huffington Post – Features blog entries from David Mamet, John Cusack, Christopher Guest, Ellen DeGeneres, and more. Click on the Huffington Post link for an index of all Huffington bloggers, or go here for the Wikipedia list of celebrity bloggers on the site.

Goro Miyazaki – From a man who knows something about living in a father’s shadow, the son of acclaimed director Hayao Miyazaki discusses the development of his animated film, Tales from Earthsea, based on the Ursula LeGuin novels. For those of you who can read Japanese, enjoy! For us mere mortals, here is the English translation.

Margaret Cho – The well-known comedienne (Notorious C.H.O and, believe it or not, Face-Off) shares her thoughts on life, loves and the world at large, as well as many, many (many, many) pictures and videos.

Pamela Anderson – The eternal blond bombshell writes personal, and frequent, entries about her life, malicious rumors and the world at large in her bubblegummy diary (and I mean that literally – I’m suddenly craving something pink and fluffy…).

Michelle Rodriguez – Lengthy but sporadic messages from the tough Fast and the Furious and Lost beauty on her official website.

And finally…

Check out EW’s best and worst celebrity blogs for their take on some of these blogs, and others not mentioned here.


Quotes – Planet of the Apes

September 28, 2007

Planet of the Apes

Well, you know what they say. Human see, human do.

Fun trivia: Ever think that Planet of the Apes is kind of like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone? Well, there’s a reason. Rod Serling, the creator of The Twilight Zone, wrote the screenplay for it with Michael Wilson (It’s a Wonderful Life, Lawrence of Arabia), based on the book by Pierre Boulle.

Of course, Rod Serling was most recognizable for his role as the host of The Twilight Zone – you know, that guy with the very. precise. voice. who appeared suddenly at the beginning of each episode to introduce the story? Yep, he helped write the screenplay for Planet of the Apes. Intriguing, isn’t it…

Wait, is that a signpost up ahead? (sorry, couldn’t resist)


Madeleine L’Engle

September 27, 2007

A Wrinkle in Time movie

As most of you probably know, author Madeleine L’Engle died this month at the age of 88. I’m a bit late perhaps, but I thought it fitting to pay tribute to this science fiction and fantasy legend and her classic (and quite poetically named) novel, A Wrinkle in Time.

Amazingly (or perhaps not), there has been only one movie, a TV movie, based on the book. What did Madeleine think of it, according to Newsweek?

NEWSWEEK: So you’ve seen the movie?
Madeleine L’Engle:
I’ve glimpsed it.

And did it meet expectations?
Oh, yes. I expected it to be bad, and it is.

The movie she’s referring to featured a “watered down” version of the story, in particular in regards to its religious elements (sound familiar?).

So has a better or at least feature film not been made for fear of religious controversy? Or perhaps due to its heavy science content, or the difficulty (i.e., expense involved) in satisfactorily reproducing a classic fantasy book?

Who knows. But here are some fun facts about this well-known tale to help make my case for a great Wrinkle in Time feature:

But you see, Meg, just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean that the explanation doesn’t exist.

The opening line

The book begins with the line “it’s a dark and stormy night.” Cliché? Perhaps. But it’s still lots of fun, and of course perfect for the movies.

Trivia: It had to start somewhere… That inescapable line was originally written by Lord Edward Bulwer-Lytton in his novel Paul Clifford.

Rejection

Like many classic books, A Wrinkle in Time was, according to the NY Times, rejected by 26 publishers before finally being published at Farrar, Straus & Giroux. To give another example of a rejected classic: Harry Potter was also turned down by publishers – though naturally, accounts of how many times vary, from just a few to about a dozen (her stack of rejection letters was thiiissss big!). JK Rowling herself, and hopefully she knows, says in an interview:

“Four or five publishers turned it down, I think, and the consistent criticism was, ‘It’s far too long for children.’”

An article in the National Review Online also notes that “…a British publisher that rejected The Sorcerer’s Stone did so because it was “too literary.”” Ah yes, the typical complaint against (eventual) huge bestsellers.

Popularity

Again according to the NY Times, A Wrinkle in Time (1962) has sold 8 million copies and is now in its 69th printing. Sure, JK Rowling can sell that amount in about a day (with her hands tied behind her back), but considering that 12 million copies of the three books in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series have been sold worldwide so far and around 10 million copies of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz have been sold since it was first published… in 1900… – the figure sounds a bit more impressive.

Series

Not a lone classic like Catcher in the Rye, A Wrinkle in Time is actually the first book in a series, although it is without question the most read and the most famous book in the series. The other three (A Wind in the Door, Many Waters, A Swiftly Tilting Planet) combine with A Wrinkle in Time to form the series “Time Quartet” about the Murry family. So no need to come up with a Wrinkle in Time 2: The College Years for that summer franchise. Phew!

For a complete list of Madeleine’s works, click here.

Tradition of children’s fantasy

The Chronicles of Narnia. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Alice in Wonderland. Harry Potter. The Golden Compass (hopefully). Most anything by Roald Dahl (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Matilda). Some of the greatest classic books of all time have been made into the greatest classic movies of all time. And really, I think there’s room for one more in the pantheon.

Some fun, and of course entirely random, trivia: Roald Dahl wrote 6 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents… Perhaps an odd pairing at first sight, but when you think about it, you can certainly see a shade (or more than just a shade) of Hitchcock in Dahl’s books. Hordes of squirrels attacking a girl? Yep, that’s what I thought.

Controversy

A Wrinkle of Time has frequently been banned for its religious and mythological themes. It’s number 22 on the American Library Association’s list of the 100 Most Challenged Books of 1990-2000. Harry Potter is number 7 and Bridge to Terabithia (another film adaptation) is number 9. Which brings me to…

Themes

Time travel. Science. Love. Religion. Good vs. evil.

Controversial and heartwarming? If that doesn’t scream movie, I don’t know what does.

Hayao Miyazaki: closeted Wrinkle in Time fan?

Live action fantasy is expensive, limited and time consuming. Animation is expensive and time consuming, sure, but the possiblities? Practically endless. And Miyazaki’s record with animated fantasy adaptations? Spotless.

His most recent adaptation of fantasy literature was Howl’s Moving Castle, inspired by the book of the same name by Diana Wynne Jones, author of the Chrestomanci fantasy series (think Harry Potter, but with more eccentricity, a smaller castle and less children).

Miyazaki was even originally interested in directing an animated version of Ursula LeGuin’s Earthsea novels, although his son Goro ended up making the animated film (titled Tales from Earthsea) instead.

As Ursula LeGuin herself says:

Twenty or so years ago, Mr Hayao Miyazaki wrote me expressing interest in making an animated film based on the (then only three) books of Earthsea. I did not know his work. I knew only Disney-type animation, and disliked it. I said no.

Six or seven years ago, my friend Vonda N. McIntyre told me about My Neighbor Totoro and we watched it together. I became a Miyazaki fan at once and forever. I consider him a genius of the same caliber as Kurosawa or Fellini.

With praise like that, plus Miyazaki’s additional background in science fiction, who else better to direct an animated version of A Wrinkle in Time? Dubbed, limited release in art house theaters, here we come!

Plot

At this point, if you haven’t read the book, you might be saying: okay, that’s all well and good, but what is this book actually about?

Here then is a (spoiler free) plot summary, taken from Madeleine L’Engle’s official site (because who can describe the book better than her?):

Meg Murry, her little brother Charles Wallace, and their mother are having a midnight snack on a dark and stormy night when an unearthly stranger appears at their door. She claims to have been blown off course, and goes on to tell them that there is such a thing as a “tesseract,” which, if you didn’t know, is a wrinkle in time.

Meg’s father had been experimenting with time-travel when he suddenly disappeared. Will Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin outwit the forces of evil as they search through space for their father?