Movie Review: The Words

As if Inception wasn’t confusing enough, newbie directors Lee Sternthal and Brian Klugman bring us The Words, a narrative within a narrative within a narrative.

A nice enough movie about the repercussions of stealing another writer’s work and publishing it under one’s own name, The Words left me wanting more…words. Not only is this film quite vague about the identity of its main (?) character, it cries for a bigger conflict and ends with unanswered questions and a confusing ending. Is it ironic that a movie titled The Words should be lacking in just that?

The movie starts with Dennis Quaid’s character, an author giving a reading of his new book at a library. This scene is short-lived, because when he starts reading, his words fade out and we are then thrust into the world of his creation and Bradley Cooper’s character, Rory. Rory is also an author, though a struggling one. He lives a typical writer’s life in the city: living in a small, cramped apartment with his soon-to-be wife, finally breaking down and getting a real job as the mail guy in a publishing house, writing til all hours of the night, procrastinating, and battling with his own worth in the world as he struggles to fulfill his dream.

This conflict was introduced early on, and I had high hopes for the rest of the storyline. However, when he and his wife honeymoon in Paris and he finds an old manuscript in a briefcase in some Ernest Hemingway exhibit, and then he later decides to publish this manuscript under his own name, the conflict kind of just falls apart. The guy who actually wrote that manuscript just so happens to be living in the same city as Rory, and approaches him with his story about how he actually came to write the book. So we’re launched into the life of this new guy, the real author, which takes up a good chunk of the movie. Like I said, a narrative within a narrative within a narrative. But other than making the real-author upset, we really don’t see any repercussions for Cooper’s actions and the high point we were all hoping for never really comes. And just like Inception, we go back through the different levels now and again and eventually we learn (or at least we are led to believe) that Bradley Cooper is actually Dennis Quaid (or is he?) and the whole movie ends with Olivia Wilde asking if Quaid wants to live life or fiction. So…okay, so what happened?

What it lacks in stimulating and sense-making story structure, it makes up for in everything else. ‘A’ list cast members like Dennis Quaid, Bradley Cooper, Zoe Saldana, Olivia Wilde, etc., really live up to their reputation in this wonderfully acted film. The sets and cinematography were gorgeous, and I must applaud Marcelo Zarvos for creating such a fitting and beautiful accompanying soundtrack. I do appreciate the artistic vibe to this movie (I’m all about films that make you question), but I think it could have benefited from focusing on one character (or two characters, depending on if you think Bradley Cooper is Dennis Quaid) instead of three.

Also, I suppose there’s a lot more Ernest Hemingway references in this movie than I had first realized. But upon some research, I found that in addition to one of the characters reading The Sun Also Rises and Cooper visiting a Hemingway exhibit, the real-author-of-the-manuscript character’s wife lost his book on a train, which apparently is how Hemingway lost a lot of his early work. Be Hemingway knowledgeable if you’re going to watch this movie.

Ultimately, I think this movie was well-shot and a joy to watch. The questions it poses are extremely relevant to writers and resonated with me quite deeply. After watching this movie, all I could ask myself was, “If I found a work of genius manuscript with no name and no one to claim it, and I had been struggling to live and struggling to be heard in the literary world, would I publish it under my name?”

Would you?

(See the trailer below)

Advertisements

5 Childhood Movies That Probably Drove Me to Vegetarianism

As you all know (or probably don’t know considering I’ve hardly mentioned it), I’ve been a vegetarian for a very long time – just shy of 14 years now.

.

And the number one question people ask me when they discover that I stopped eating meat at the ripe old age of six is “How?” Everyone always wants to know how I was able to make that kind of mature decision when most other six year olds were busy stockpiling Beanie Babies and watching Toy Story 2. And because I’m me, I always give them the most thoroughly-examined answer I can possibly offer: “I honestly have no idea.”

.

No one ever seems satisfied with that answer though, and sometimes I feel a little embarrassed giving it (shouldn’t I know what was going on in my head at that age?), so I try to follow up that answer with the much more intelligent sounding “I think I just figured out where meat came from and didn’t like it.” Probably.

.

But because I myself am not satisfied with that answer, I’ve attempted to dig a little deeper into my six year old psyche and unearth a few more influences that must have been at play. I’m told that I had a shockingly long attention span for a six year old, so much so that I could sit in one spot and do one activity for hours on end. It’s because of this fact that I believe I have found my influences…

.

5 Childhood Movies That Probably Drove Me to Vegetarianism

 .

Chicken Run – (2000)

.

Plot: A feisty chicken and her chicken friends attempt to escape from a farm on which they are about to become baked into pies. Stop motion.

.

Lesson: Animals have emotions, hopes, and dreams too. They’d much rather frolic in a warm and sunny paradise than be cooked up for dinner. I can relate. I don’t want to be a pie either.

101 Dalmations – (1996)

 .

Plot: Skunk-headed Cruella De Vil tries to steal and murder 101 adorable puppies so that she can make clothes out of their fur. Live action.

.

Lesson: The fur industry is a cruel world, and wearing the skin of a fellow animal is a little creepy (“It rubs the lotion on its skin…”). Don’t wear fur. You might be wearing puppy.

Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey – (1993)

 .

Plot: After three pets think they have been abandoned (their owners really just went on vacation), they cross California in the hopes of being reunited with the family they so dearly love. Live action.

.

Lesson: Getting into the mind of your pets puts a very different perspective on things. The love and devotion they extend to you should always be reciprocated. Also, leaving your pet anywhere while you go on a trip is likely to make you very, very sad.

FernGully: The Last Rainforest – (1992)

 .

Plot: A clan of fairies and one human-accidentally-made-fairy-size fight to save their rainforest home from deforestation and a Tim-Curry voiced pollution monster. Animated.

.

Lesson: Recycle and take care of the environment. You’re not just killing trees; you’re killing all the life within them. And the brief mentions of animal testing on the lovable Robin Williams-bat character makes me think that that’s probably not a very nice industry either.

The Fox and the Hound – (1981)

 .

Plot: A really cute fox and a really cute dog grow up as childhood friends but are soon turned natural enemies as adults. Animated.

.

Lesson: I can’t get through that scene without crying.

Movie Review: Miss Potter

It’s tough being a woman in the literary world.

No one knows that better than famed early 20th century author Beatrix Potter.

And while she has come to be known as the creator of, among numerous other children’s books, the beloved Peter Rabbit tale, Beatrix Potter was not taken so seriously at first.

As an unmarried and slightly eccentric woman well into her thirties, Beatrix Potter’s abilities both as a writer and an artist were often mocked, not only by her soon-to-be publishers, but also by her mother.

But Beatrix soon found solace in the positive encouragement of one of her publishers, Norman Warne.

The 2006 film Miss Potter chronicles not only the budding love between Norman and Beatrix, but also her struggles to break into the publishing scene during a time when women were wished to be a little more domestic in nature.

The movie has a light and fun tone, with only one instance or so of a deeply sorrowful event. The film mixes a touch of animation (very little of it actually, not overly distracting) with real-life acting as it delves into Beatrix Potter’s very heart and soul.

Though the film does take its usual few liberties with her life story, it remains fairly true to the actual happenings of her life.

 (I did take the initiative to do a bit of research and the filmmakers got a lot of it right – even Norman Warne’s mustache)

Ewan McGregor as Norman Warne

Norman Warne

(But honestly, how could you mess up a great mustache like that?)

An excellent film for any aspiring author or period film enthusiast, Miss Potter sheds some light on a woman who, despite unhappiness in her own life, sought to bring happiness and joy to others through her heartwarming stories.

Daily Prompt: Silver Screen – “Life. Don’t Talk to Me about Life.”

I’m sure many of you have noticed my header image (it’s a bit hard to miss), and what with the current news lately, I figured it’s time I explain it. Yes, the girl in the glasses is me, but the real gem is what I’m holding – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

I don’t remember how I discovered it. Did I watch the 2005 movie adaptation or read the book first? I honestly can’t say – it’s just always been there.

But I think what first attracted me to this book was its playful sarcasm about life. It takes a question we all ask – What is the answer to life, the universe, and everything? – (in essence, What’s the purpose of it all?) and alludes to that answer while showcasing the absurdity and hilarity of humanity. What better book to highlight the reason for my blog?

Unfortunately, the author of this life-satire never got to fully experience his own. This past Monday (3/11/13) marked what would have been the 61st birthday of Douglas Adams. And while Google celebrated in typical Google fashion, the literary world mourned the loss of a truly great writer and thinker.

Several of my fellow bloggers paid homage to Adams in their recent posts. In fact, a few things I never knew about Douglas Adams were highlighted in the blog Flight of the Flightless (He wrote for Doctor Who? I knew I loved him for a reason), which only elevated him higher in my mind. Today I write my own post in memory of this influential author and the seeds he has planted for many writers to come.

Events like this remind us of the fleeting nature of life, and just how important it is to discover and learn while we can. Despite how confusing and complex life may seem, we are left with the comforting legacy of Douglas Adams and his everlasting advice: “Don’t panic.” All you need is a towel.

As we all know, this whale’s life was quite fleeting…

Are Book Trailers the Next Big Thing?

When people think of books, rarely do the words “visually compelling” cross their minds. Writing is certainly visual in its own imaginative sort of way, but besides the act of reading itself, viewing the images described in a novel are usually put off until the book is translated onto the big screen.

Lately, however, advertisers have found a way to put books on the little screen: book trailers. Now, I definitely claim to be one of those people who quite enjoys watching movie trailers – after all, they’re supposed to get you pumped up for the actual film. But I’ve never really thought of making a little preview like that for a book. After watching some of the following trailers, I’m absolutely sold on this concept.

Here are a few of my favorites that I found while exploring the trailer-sphere:

“Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children”


This trailer was clearly not made by an amateur, and the effect (though starting off a little Princess Bride-like) was the same as any movie trailer – it made me want to know more.

“The Night Circus”


This one wasn’t as comparable to a film trailer, but the elements it did have (soundtrack, some background visual interest) allowed it some extra bonus points. This type of trailer is more akin to something anyone could make (self-publishers, hm?) because of its relatively low technical complexities. The words forced the viewer to pay a bit more attention to reading, which I don’t think entirely kills the watching experience, simply because the viewers are probably avid readers in the first place.

“City of Lost Souls”


Wow, okay. That might as well have been a movie trailer. Clearly this one was done by professionals (and considering it was uploaded by Simon & Schuster, it was probably one of theirs) and is a very well-made book trailer for an already popular book series. But the question remains – did watching this make you want to read the book?

“The Great Gatsby”


Alright, I was just seeing if you were paying attention. This trailer is actually a real movie preview for the latest adaptation of The Great Gatsby. I am a fan of Baz Luhrmann’s, so I’ll be interested to see what he does with this excellent novel.

What do you think? Were the book trailers at all similar to the film trailer? Whether they are as good as movie trailers is arguable, but I think making them in the first place is an excellent advertising tactic and I hope to see more of these produced in the near future.