"I am at a loss to conceive how a man should permit himself to write anything that would be truly disgraceful to a woman, or why a woman should be censured for writing anything that would be proper and becoming for a man."

13 June 2012

Aren't Ordinary People Adorable?

"Have you ever had anyone?"

Or: Why the Eff Aren't You Effing Watching Sherlock?
You must be lowering the IQ of your entire street.

I've had a good deal of conversations lately regarding adaptation of source materials for television and film. A good number of these conversations revolve around how what makes an interpretation not only faithful but engaging is the ability to remain true to the spirit of its source and, more importantly, the characterization. An excellent (superb, magnificent, mind-blowing... I'm seriously running out of superlative adjectives to describe it) example of crafting something which remains true to its source while giving having a life of its own is the BBC Sherlock. The stories are Doyle's, modernized. The characters are Doyle's, modernized. The show embodies everything that made the Sherlock Holmes stories timeless yet updates them to enrapture a modern audience.

Generally, I try to refrain from being a snob about entertainment (film, TV, music, literature) because I dislike the idea of having a narrow view of the great scope which makes up these incredible, diverse disciplines. While I will call out crap as crap, I try not to slam people's enjoyment of their preferred selections for creative indulgence (because let's be honest: I like some crap myself). Yet I will admit to a general feeling that 95% of what exists on television these days is utter crap, and the shows that truly craft engaging, compelling, emotionally investing, intelligent stories and characters get overlooked for yet another incarnation of American Idols Who Think They Can Have Talent Tout Their Voice For Dancing With Former Quasi Stars. I digress...

What Conan Doyle created with his detective series inspired, and continues to inspire, creative storytelling to this day. Much as the current Sherlock Holmes films bear little resemblance to their source material, they are engaging, entertaining Victorian buddy movies with equally gorgeous stars. (Confession: my own personal tastes lean much more toward Jude Law than RDJ, but I do enjoy them both.) I acknowledge and accept this fact, and in so doing  appreciate and enjoy these films for what they are.
With Sherlock, I not only enjoy the show as entertainment but as a study in adaptation, humanity, corruption, insanity, and... well... life. By staying true to the characters and stories crafted, the creators of the show are free to expand on the concepts Doyle presented in his original stories and interpret them for a post-post-modern audience.

Those are all quite academic reasons for watching the show. In po-po-mo parlance: this show is the shit. Sherlock is a brilliant sociopath whose own human nature is tested and explored by the forming friendship with the lost former army doctor who actually misses being in the middle of a war. Sherlock's brother, Mycroft, IS the British government though he would claim otherwise, and yet he demonstrates an immense desire to look out for his brother, twisted thought their relationship may be.
If John is the anchor for the show, and for Sherlock, Moriarty is the foil. Just as brilliant as Sherlock and yet the prime example of psychopathy to Sherlock's sociopathic tendencies. There's a damn good reason the actors for all three of these major players were BAFTA-nominated this year. And quite honestly, the fact that Andrew Scott won for what amounts to an episode plus about five additional minutes of screen time speaks volumes to his talent, and the talents of the production team.

Bottom line: Sherlock truly is the best show you're not watching. So get on that...
(And don't even get me started on the masterful way Mofftiss ends a season.)

12 June 2012

Life's Road Signs...

True dat!
Much to my constant chagrin, on this journey of life there are no signs along the road which say truly helpful things like:
Buckets of money over here!
Turn this way for ultimate success in your professional endeavors!
Three miles straight ahead to your perfect human companion!
Satisfaction with the state of your life and acceptance of who you are just through this thicket of brambles on the other side of the mountain!
Free puppies (already wormed, neutered, chipped, and with free food for a year)!

Wait... that last one actually does exist sometimes and is for me, in a brief moment of extreme optimism, always a sign which leads to happiness both for the recipient and the puppies.

You get the point, though. And if any of those other signs has shown up in your life and led to what is indicated, please give me directions to your road... unless that road involves joining Scientology, becoming a total slut, or sacrificing all my ethics in order to achieve my desires (gee, and I wonder why I haven't found success in Los Angeles yet...).

There are, however, signs which alert us to events, situations, traps, pitfalls, and such to avoid -- sometimes the signs are even multiple and give us a way out, if not to a better road, at least a different one with better potential. These signs aren't always obvious, but often they are, and in either instance there are times when we are either too distracted looking for the signs we want to see, or too stubborn to pay heed to the warnings, or too distracted by a drifting plastic bag across the road to notice the signs.
Then, one day, we look around and realize we're on a road we never intended to be with (seemingly) no idea how we got there, nor how to get away. Whatever triggers our realization, we ultimately have few options: stay where we are, accepting that this is where we took ourselves and just deal with it -- or find a way out.
Option one is safe. We may not be in the place we intended, or even want, but we're here now. Why not make the best of it? Accept, deal, and hang out here. Maybe we'll adjust to this place and find some type of satisfaction in it... eventually. Maybe.
Option two is terrifying. Exhilarating. It has the potential to alienate us from those we've been heading down the same road with and formed bonds with along the way. We could crash our proverbial cars or drive them off a cliff trying to get out of this place. We could also find our own road, build it if necessary, that leads to what we really want -- what is good for us.

I'm finding myself currently looking back and seeing the signs reflected on the road where an oppressive heat beats down and causes the signs to gleam in reverse off the pavement. I look at where I am and see how lost I truly am. I'm standing in the center of what looks like an oasis village, and yet I know what it really is. I've known for a while, I just haven't admitted it to myself.
It's a mirage.
That promise of security and balance is an illusion, and as much as I crave those two stabilizers I know I was made for more. I'm not one to run back out into the desert down unknown roads without drawing myself a map first, but I'll be damned if I settle in this little pocket of life and accept it as my one and only inevitable future. The water was soothing at first; now it's growing stagnant and wretched. I'm tired of trying to boil it and tossing in a few additives to make it more palatable.
I don't want palatable. I want savory, sweet, exotic, surprising, and I want it assaulting all my senses.

I'm going to start my own map, watch for the important signs, and build my own road out of this mirage. Anyone who wants out of theirs, let's build that road and head down it together.

11 June 2012

If It's Been Done Well, Leave It Alone

*deep breaths before diving into a hot button issue with me*

Articles and speculation about adapting classic literature (and literature in general) always draw my attention and, sometimes, my ire. I am not one of those Every Book Is A Holy Canon Which Should Not Be Altered For Screen people. I'm a writer, and I have flaws. I've written for the screen, and have flaws. No writer is perfect and no medium of expression is perfect in conveying what one medium already covered. My issues with adaptations are not rooted in that base problem, they are rooted in this: when one creator crafts a story and characters, it is the responsibility of someone later coming along to adapt that work to at least stay true to the overall tone and message of the source, as well as its characterization -- or change the g-d name! You change plot points? As long as we get to the same eventual conclusion, fine. You combine or omit characters? As long as it makes a stronger narrative and doesn't mess up essential moments in the story, fine. You alter a major character motivation, changing who they are on a fundamental level? NOW I have an issue, and my outrage will be rantalicious unless you give damn good support for your change or, you know, CHANGE THE G-D NAME. (Noticing a trend?)

My only other gripe with adaptation (and why I pretty much never take issue with Shakespeare films because he's the one writer out there whose work we never quite get right), is that once a well done, faithful adaptation is accomplished it's time to close the book, so to speak, and remove it from the realm of stories up for grabs. In my hasty youth, I didn't even extend this to previous film works. I thought, hey, if you can update a classic film well, then go for it! I've wizened and grown curmudgeonly in recent yeas, however, and now see the error of my ways. And if ever I need a reminder, I think of High Society (yeah, Hollywood was pulling that even during its Golden Age, so we can't heap all the blame on ourselves for the current state of stagnant original ideas). It's fine to have a vision of someone else's story in your head. If you're lucky enough to be allowed the chance to craft that story in another medium, then kudos to you -- you're already achieving one of my biggest dreams. Just... don't eff it up. And if you do and then someone else comes along later and hits the marks where you missed them, then at least you had that chance. However, if someone beats you to your dream (and I swear I will probably resort to every known tactic of undermining human success if this happens to me -- yeah, I can get competitive when I need to be), accept their success and find a new dream for yourself. The idea that once a good, faithful adaptation has been crafted someone else can come along with a new interpretation that will make the successful one shudder in shame is ridiculous. Improving a work from one medium to another is one huge accomplishment. Don't tempt fate by trying to improve the adaptation -- find something different or original to make, or CHANGE.THE.G-D.NAME.

What spurred my current eruption of emotion about adaptations? Well, it's been sort of a slow burn recently between varying reports of remaking IT, a clustermess of issues in season two of Game of Thrones (many of which end up as just sloppy storytelling -- and making strong characters into idiots), and culminating in the top news of this article about directors who were born for certain adaptations. The article itself is intriguing and has some interesting (and some, really, very safe) choices in the roster. What made my head do a Linda Blair was the news which sparked this article: that Guy Ritchie is doing an adaptation of Treasure Island.
Now, I don't necessarily doubt that the movie will be a fun romp with cool action sequences, quippy dialogue, and a sassy Long John Silver. There's just two issues with this equation. First, that concept is not going to end up being Treasure Island. Second, there already exists a near perfect adaptation of the book -- we don't need another.
Addressing issue the first: Guy Ritchie's already proven this is his MO with the Sherlock Holmes movies. Those guys bashing around the world solving mysteries are not Holmes and Watson. What Ritchie crafted is a set of cool Victorian buddy movies, with two men who happen to share names with and few characteristics of two of the most compelling characters in literature. You want to really see Holmes and Watson on screen? Watch the BBC series Sherlock. It's a modern setting, yes, but it IS Sherlock Holmes. I enjoy the movies, but I told myself about fifteen minutes into the first one that this was a Victorian buddy movie, not a Sherlock Holmes movie. In my head, I CHANGED THE G-D NAME, and then it was fine.
Now on to issue the second: already a near perfect adaptation of Treasure Island? Yep. I've never seen that... you think. No, you probably haven't. Yet it exists. It's a very good film, and it is one of the best examples in existence of how to adapt literature for screen. It's faithful to the tone, style, feel and majority of the plot. The characterization is spot on with a stellar cast. It's not a perfect movie, but Treasure Island is not a perfect book. It is however proof that when you maintain the core of a novel as your guiding star you can make not only a good film but a truly faithful adaptation of a work which deserves that treatment. Yet, people are still making Treasure Island... except no other adaptation I've seen really is remotely close to actually being Treasure Island, thus the crux of this whole entry: if you're going to keep remaking something and yet deviate drastically from the source -- CHANGE.THE.G-D.NAME.

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