Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Nerd goes to the Movies: 2012 edition

So, I do have a fascination with reading the source materials for movies, if possible before seeing them.  I know I am not alone,  So, here are THE books you need to read before going to the movies this year.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs:  This short story by the Grimms is generating two movies this year: Mirror Mirror (3/16) and Snow White and the Huntsman (6/1).  Can't wait to see all the stuff the producers and writers throw in there to fill out a couple hours.  These movies, being based on such a short story, are reminiscient of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.  Something tells me the results will not be the same.

The Hunger Games: (3/23) This literary phenomenon has now been made into a blockbuster from Hollywood.  I just saw the preview a couple of days ago and it looks interesting.  I really liked Jennifer Lawrence in Winter's Bone, so this should prove to be a good one for a Saturday rental after it comes out on DVD.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: (6/22)  While not really up my alley in terms of literary choice, I am intrigued by the fact that it is directed by Tim Burton.  -D is a big fan of Burton, but I do think he makes a misstep every once in a while.  What I am looking forward to more is his version of Dark Shadows later in the year (he does odd camp best).

The Hobbit: (12/14) The prequel to the Lord of the Rings is finally getting the full Hollywood a la Peter Jackson treatment.  I will be forced to see it with the hubby, so I might as well get to reading this one.  I tried once before, but I struggled in the first chapter and put it down.  We shall see...

The Great Gatsby: (12/25)  So if I get dragged to the theater to see the previous two picks, I will get to turn the tables for this one.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Baz Luhrmann and cannotwait to see what he does with this one.  I will have to refresh my memory because 11th grade English was not kind to Fitzgerald.

and last but not least:

Team of Rivals (Lincoln): (December, I hope) Rarely do I get all tingly whilst reading the actor list on IMDB for an upcoming movie, but I did on this one!  I ablsolutely loved Dorris Kearns Goodwin's masterpiece on the Lincoln presidency (it is hand's down my favorite Lincoln book), so I cannot tell you how excited I am that it is coming out this year!  I won't force Drew to go see this one with me.  I loaned the book to my dad after I read it and he loved it as much as I did, so sounds like a dad-daughter outing is in the offing!!  Yea! 

Are there any books that are being adapted for the screen you are excited about this year?  Oh, I just realized I left off Twilight (how could that have happened? I wonder).  If Twilight is the movie you are most excited about, please do not let me know; I will mock you mercilessly inside my head.


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Help: A Rumination on Civil Rights and such

So, I have a small timing issue (previously discussed on this blog) in which I do not read according to current bestseller lists.  I wait a little while, try to give a book some time to breathe (for me to forget all the spoilers I think I have heard through my stopped up ears), and then I read. 

The latest read to fit into this category of books for me is The Help.  The ubiquitous read was EVERYwhere last year and the year before: book blogs, newspapers, morning television, etc.  The furor was renewed with the creation of the motion picture adaptation.  Which is what brought me on board. 

I like to attempt to read the source materials for most of the movies (that have source materials) before I see the movie.  In fact, I tend to refuse to see movies until I have read the book...yes, still waiting on The Maltese Falcon.  So, since The Help (the movie) has been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and I am going to the AMC Best Picture Showcase in a couple of weeks, I found myself with some reading to do! 

Thankfully, the book is of the page-turning sort.  It is a well told story, even if the dialect gets in the way a little bit. 

I couldn't help thinking of my summers in Mississippi with my grandparents in the late 80s.  Many of the vestiges of the racism that formed the struggle at the center of The Help, were still evident.  A trip to the Piggly Wiggly with my grandmother was still included a chance to hear the n-word used, to see the lines drawn subtly between classes and races.  My grandmother had a black woman to help her around the house on a weekly basis and this was still pretty common.  My grandmother looked down on her, but also showed her kindness and a concern for her family that was palpable to a child under the age of ten.  The contradictions inherent in these kinds of relationships were easily recognizable and equally infuriating. 

I grew up with a strong aversion to racism and had a real-life struggle with friends at a young age that left an impression on me forever: that the lines drawn between people are often not drawn by others for us to see, but are drawn by suggestion.  Some of us can overcome the power of that suggestion and shrug off stereotypes to examine people as individuals.  Some of us cannot overcome the power of those persuasive influences and are doomed to follow in their opinions and actions.  What it comes down to in the end is the question: are you going to follow or ar you going to lead? 

The characters who form the center of The Help are of the latter group: leaders.  They don't stand up and make speeches or try to force others to see things their way.  Instead they live quiet lives of conviction and wait for others to catch on.  I think it is this portrait of a leader in the midst of the civil rights era that has made The Help the phenomenon it is.  There is something that resonnates in the queitly done everyday activities that change the way others think.  It is leading by example, even if it looks like no one will follow.  This is the type of person who really accomplished civil rights reform in America and Kathryn Stockett paints their portraits sharply and beautifully.

I am glad I read The Help and I really am looking forward to seeing the film.  I am also interested in getting the audio version.  Has anybody seen the movie or heard the book?  Please let me know what you think.

Rating: 6 out of 7