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Tony Grist

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Christmas Eve Viewing [Dec. 25th, 2010|10:37 am]
Tony Grist
I watched a bit of Prince Caspian. It was frightfully violent. The fairytale people were fighting the Spanish conquistadors. There was a cute mouse that killed grown men with a rapier. I was quite enjoying all this until a dead-eyed CGI lion turned up and everyone curtsied and bowed to it while it said pompous things. The lion had super-powers and conjured up a river god who killed the chief conquistador and then everything was fine again. The lion had been living in retirement in the forest- and the reason it hadn't intervened before and saved a whole lot of killing was a deep mystery we were advised not to question. 

Seriously, does anyone find Aslan an attractive character? I think he's ghastly. 

I cleansed my palate with Whistle and I'll Come to You- a reworking of an original idea by M.R. James- starring John Hurt as an old man grieving for the wife who has been taken away from him by Altzheimers.  The new material didn't quite fit the framework of the original- the whistle the old man finds on the beach had become a ring- thus making a nonsense of the title- but the slow pacing and murky atmospherics were just right. Forty years ago Jonathan Miller made a more faithful version with Michael Hordern in the lead that has become a classic- and this matched up to it well and was- if anything- even scarier. 
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2010-12-25 10:59 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I bailed in favour of QI after I saw they'd turned the whistle to a ring - with an inscription, no doubt, in the speech of Mordor. And why drop "My Lad" from the title? Or turn the twin beds (as I vaguely remember them) to a double? Perhaps I should have stuck with it a little longer, but this kind of change for the sake of it always irritates. The beach seemed at first glance to be suffering from a distinct lack of groynes, too - though the nightmarish exhaustion of climbing over them is very important to the story's effect. But Hurt and the hotel were both good.

How did they finish it, though? If I remember, in the James story the hero is saved by an old India hand who's come across this kind of thing in his travels. There didn't seem to be any such help at hand in 2010.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-25 11:27 am (UTC)
There wasn't. He died. And the ghost who was plaguing him turned out to be his wife.

The ghost in James is one of the scariest in the genre. It has a face of crumpled linen. Miller didn't try to reproduce this- and neither did the director last night. Perhaps this was wise. It works on the page; it probably wouldn't work on film.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2010-12-25 11:01 am (UTC)
the ONLY thing I find attractive about Aslan is his voice. I watched a bit of that the other night, and yes...frightfully violent is an accurate description. But I have little use for either those books OR those movies.

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-25 11:29 am (UTC)
I never read the books. I thought I'd give the film a whirl, because it looked pretty, but by the end I hated it.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2010-12-25 11:15 am (UTC)
I grew up with him, and so did my children - I read LWW twice before I realized who Aslan was
I'm not sure about the films. Yes, Caspian is much more violent than LWW, but the children to whom the books were dedicated to were growing older - and the author fought in the trenches of WW1
I'm having to read Caspian again, because there were things in the film that i don't remember form the book - but, for the most part, it seemed to follow the book quite closely. What baffles me is that dawn treader is already out, and I didn't see Caspian until yesterday - how did that happen?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-25 11:37 am (UTC)
I side-stepped Lewis. He didn't figure in my childhood or in my children's. I've read some of his other things- the Great Divorce, Surprised by Joy, some of the essays. He's clearly brilliant, but I detest his world view.

The film is almost nothing but fighting and killing. It's like
The Dirty Dozen with added sermonizing.
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[User Picture]From: ron_broxted
2010-12-25 12:15 pm (UTC)
Felt like I'd been conned with "Whistle" last night. Poxy director (Andy De Emmony...first of all in Gaelic it is D'Emmony, yes he did Fr Ted, ought to have stuck to comedy). The whole plot (ghosts, buried treasure) was glossed over for some pox about Hurt's wife. Not scary, dull. Plus the signal went after so NO Green Street (crap) nor even the end of a re-run of Uncle Buck (nice Xmas fare). Well, I smell Turkey so Happy Xmas!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-25 12:41 pm (UTC)
I love Father Ted.

I'm cooking chicken. I had the oven on too high to begin with and the kitchen was full of choking smoke. Christmas dinner is a nerve-racking business.
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[User Picture]From: calizen
2010-12-25 04:03 pm (UTC)
Every time I read your take on literary things, I then read your friends' take on literary things, and then your discourse over their take and -- Well, I get breathless with the lovely education I get. Thank you for telling me about the Whistle. And as for Caspian, the Hollywood group here nearly didn't get to do a sequel to the whole Narnia thing because it bombed so badly. They intentionally made it as violent as they could to bring in -- who else? -- teenage boys. Who were off seeing something else blowing up while the families stayed away from it. So now they're back to a more family friendly picture with Aslan jumping in there from time to time just to remind you that he's the one that brought in the money the first time.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-25 04:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you.

I'm happy that Caspian bombed. I'm enough of a boy to enjoy battle sequences- but I want more from a movie than just fight after fight after fight.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2010-12-25 05:01 pm (UTC)
I cleansed my palate with Whistle and I'll Come to You- a reworking of an original idea by M.R. James- starring John Hurt as an old man grieving for the wife who has been taken away from him by Altzheimers. The new material didn't quite fit the framework of the original- the whistle the old man finds on the beach had become a ring- thus making a nonsense of the title- but the slow pacing and murky atmospherics were just right.

I'm glad. John Hurt and M.R. James was a Christmas combination I wanted to see.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-26 10:04 am (UTC)
The purists don't like it, but it was slow and moody and believable- and it made me jump- and that's all I ask from a ghost story.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2010-12-25 05:48 pm (UTC)
I'm glad that i didn't watch it - it's many years since i read it, and I shall probably read it again one day - it sounds as if the reworking would really annoy me
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-26 10:06 am (UTC)
M.R. James is great, but I don't see why we shouldn't play around with him. The only real test is whether the adaption works- on its own terms- and for me this did.
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[User Picture]From: oakmouse
2010-12-25 07:29 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen the movies, but for me the Narnia books were --- well, even at age eight or nine or thereabouts, when I first read them, I twigged immediately to who Aslan was and felt rather bashed over the head by the Big Obvious Message. Years later, when I ran across a critic's comment that HG Wells had "sold his birthright for a pot of message", I said "Yes, that's it exactly, and Lewis made the same mistake in Narnia."

I also hated the ending of the series, which falls squarely under the heading of "tomato surprise". (I won't repeat the ending here in case it might spoil future movies for you. Suffice to say that the tomato surprise ending means that the author has hidden a crucially important fact from yo uuntil the very last moment, and then plonks it on the table to close the story. The classic tomato surprise ending is "and then they woke up".)

Lewis is one of those writers who sometimes gets it maddeningly wrong --- look at what he did to George Macdonald in The Great Divorce, for heaven's sake, of all the people in the world to have turned into a bleak, humorless, judgmental git! --- but when he gets it right he gets it absolutely right. Consider the woman in Screwtape who sighs after just the tiniest morsel of really crisp toast, or the fellow in Divorce who dwindles down into a little squeaking thing and and is devoured by his own gyroscopic self-centeredness. Nobody but Lewis could have portrayed these people so clearly.

This is why I love some of Lewis' writings, but read them sparingly. The right parts are perfect and beautiful and deserve to be savored, but the wrong parts require judicious oblivion in order to permit the right parts to shine properly.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-26 10:19 am (UTC)
Lewis protested that he didn't intend TLTWATW as a Christian allegory, but I don't believe him.

Writing with a clear moral or doctrinal agenda is a sure way of hobbling one's imagination.

The Great Divorce is a nasty book, but there are things in it I can't forget- and the dwindling man is one of them. Another is Napoleon pacing up and down in his roofless house, going, "it was all Ney's fault; it was all Talleyrand's fault..."
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[User Picture]From: ingenious76
2010-12-26 06:19 pm (UTC)
Its funny - as a kid, TLTWATW was one of my favourite books, but now as an adult it makes me cringe. (As does the "live" film version - the definitive film for me will always be the 70s animation.)

Whistle and I'll Come To You was brilliant. I've seen the black and white original, and this was no less terrifying. If James' premise is the real horror is in the mind, and we're haunted by our own sense of guilt, it is genuinely scary.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2010-12-26 07:03 pm (UTC)
Like most of the best ghost stories WAICTY allows for two explanations- a supernatural one and a psychological one. I'm glad you liked it. I thought it was excellent- an intelligent updating of a classic.
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