Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Film Adaptations - When They Work And When They Don't

First a warning that this post may contain some ranting. I will try to keep it to a minimum but when I talk about things I'm passionate about I can get a bit holier than thou. I'll try to keep it down...

Today I watched the trailer for the new Three Musketeers film, starring Matthew Macfadyen and Orlando Bloom. You can see it here. I was not impressed. I know you can't judge a whole film by the trailer and I will keep my eyes open for the movie when it comes to theatres but the ninja moves, and apparently floating ship made me think one thing; Wild Wild West. In 17th Century France. Urgh.

I am a huge fan of Alexander Dumas' book and have really enjoyed other interpretations of it through the years (I even like the Keifer Sutherland one - I know it's massively flawed but I still enjoy it. Then again I was a teenager in the nineties so may be seeing it through a rosy mist). But I just can't see myself getting behind a version that has scenes more reminiscent of Resident Evil than the Renaissance. My main thought was; why? Why change a great story that is full of adventure, romance, drama and humour to create... something else. That got me thinking about Hollywood's habit of changing well loved stories for the sake of some demographic that only they seem to think exists. And judging by the box office success of some of these adaptations it's clear it doesn't often work when you diverge from the original story.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

On Publishing and Life

It's been an interesting week for those of us watching the self-publishing world. We've seen one author who always published through a traditional publisher reject a huge advance so he can self-publish, and only a few days later an author who has always self-published (with great success) take a book deal with a traditional publisher. It can all be very confusing for us wannabe writers!

I think recent events show us one thing; that we do not live in a one size fits all world. Some authors will be better off going it alone, others would be be better with a traditional publishing arrangement. It all depends on the author and, I think, on what they want out of their writing. I admit I love the idea of one day seeing books with my name on them in bookstores (assuming they still exist by that point!) and next to books written by the authors I've grown up with and love. But if that should happen (and it's a big if) I have to accept I wouldn't make as much money as I could theoretically make through self-publishing. And I'm okay with that. I'd like to self-publish as a start, to test the audience, get feedback and improve, but long term the goal is to get an agent, and get published.

On a personal note, this week has not been a great one. Just when I thought the flat me and my boyfriend have found was a done deal it turns out that the letting agents have made a huge mistake. Originally they said a parking space comes with the flat, which my man has to have to get to work and back. Turns out it doesn't but one is available at an extra £80 a month (!) and the landlord doesn't own it but has a "verbal agreement" with a neighbour. My spider-sense is tingling that something is not right with this. So, because I'm not a complete sucker, I've asked for a written guarantee that the space will definitely be available throughout our tenancy. And now we wait to find out if the landlord will do that. Seems like a no-brainer to me but I'm not a landlord. The good news is that we can get a full refund of all monies paid, though it's very annoying as the flat is great and exactly what we're looking for. I now know why no one has good things to say about estate or letting agencies!

The writing has been okay, and I've finished a short story that was meant to be flash fiction but as it's now over 2000 words needs some serious editing. And a new title. But at least it's progress. I've also plotted out the book a bit more and realise I need to make it simpler - even I'm confused and I'm the one writing it! Oh well, with every mistake I learn a little more I guess.

I better go do some writing, maybe watch those people in London and see how soon it is before the police start to kettle them. Maybe they'll get confused and kettle those watching the boat race instead...

Monday, 21 March 2011

The Self-Publishing Revolution

Today I've mostly been reading about self-publishing. For anyone who didn't see it on Twitter (it's been doing the rounds all day) author Barry Eisler has turned down an advance from a traditional "legacy" publisher in order to go it alone and publish his books himself online in an ebook format. Oh, and did I mention that the advance was for $500,000? Now that's confidence... or madness depending on your point of view.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Film Review: Julie & Julia (2009)

Nora Ephron directs another tale of interwoven lives, just as she did in "You've Got Mail" and "Sleepless in Seattle". This time it centres not on a potential romance but on the lives of two women, separated by fifty years or so, and how inspiration can come from the most unexpected of places and that hard work will be rewarded... eventually.

Meryl Streep plays Julia Child, a woman who had a major role in introducing French cuisine to the American middle classes. We begin with her in France in 1948 with her diplomat husband Paul, played by the wonderful Stanley Tucci, trying to find some way to fill her days. Various classes later she despairs of finding anything that interests her. The only thing they both have in their lives is food, with the pleasure of eating replacing the children they've never had. Then it dawns on Julia - she should learn how to cook French cuisine. Despite resistance and mocking she learns all there is to know and even meets another two women looking to write a book of French food, and so takes the first step towards fame, though she doesn't know it at the time.

The film also tells us the story of Julie Powell (Amy Adams, in her usual likeable guise) in 2002, who has not achieved nearly as much as her peers and works in a call centre set up to assist those affected by 9/11. Needless to say her work is taking its tole on her emotionally and so, at home in the flat she and her husband rent above a pizza shop, she cooks. And one day the idea comes to her to try to cook every recipe in Julia Child's cookbook within a year, and write about the experience on a blog. And so the cross over begins, as we see how Julie copes making the recipes and how Julia experienced it herself all those years ago. But the film is about far more than just cooking.

Meryl Streep as Julia Child - kooky, larger than life and has the oddest accent.
These are two women trying to make a place for themselves in the world, a place they'll be happy in. They are both married and also need to juggle the needs of a "happy home life" with their aspirations, though neither have children to contend with as well. From the start Julia's relationship with Paul is clearly a healthy, loving and mutually beneficial one. Julie's is not so clear. Her husband Eric (Chris Messina) does appear supportive at times but at one point seems to feel that Julie is putting too much of herself into the project, at the detriment of herself and their marriage. The film seems a little confused at this point as the impression is that we are meant to agree with him, but when compared with the stresses on Julia Child it comes across as a petty situation. However once the obligatory "let's make up" is made nothing more is said about the troubles in Julie's relationship (interesting to note though that the real Julie Powell did separate from her husband).

"I wish I was nearly as interesting as Julia Child"
"Julie and Julia" is a very impressive film, and is incredibly relevant to anyone who is trying to make a dream come true. The use of cooking, traditionally a "chore" that women were seen as having to do, is instead the route to these women's success and brings joy into their lives. It's an inspirational film, though obviously leaves a lot of truth out for the sake of the story. The sections with Julia Child are also much more entertaining then those with Julie, though the balance is good, with neither being focused on too much at the expense of the other. There is also a great moment when Julie finds out what Julia Child thought of her blog. It's a stern reminder that idolisation can only go so far, and the reality of the person we admire may not match our ideas about them. The performances are excellent throughout, and Meryl Streep is clearly in her element playing the over-the-top Ms. Child. Yummy in every sense, "Julie and Julia" is a fun ride and shows that reaching our goals isn't always impossible, just very difficult.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Life Goes On

Had very good news today when I was confirmed as a "suitable tenant". Just need to make the payment for the rent and security deposit, sign the contracts and my independent life is set. Very exciting, and my boyfriend is already planning on how to do up the lounge to be the ultimate film and games room. Bless. And after the nightmare journey to work this morning I can't wait to start to use another route. Likely it will eventually annoy me as much as using the Jubilee line every day (a warning for anyone outside of London thinking of visiting - avoid this line at all costs, it's rubbish) but it will be nice to go a different way at least.

I have also had another review published on Lost in the Multiplex and you can read it here. It's for a film called "Rubber" and I absolutely loved it. Daft, weird and totally crazy - right up my weird street. Highly recommend giving it a go when it comes to DVD in April, though be warned, it won't be to everyone's taste. If you like "The Blob" and other cheesy B-movies you will likely enjoy it, that's all I'm saying. And for anyone wondering (nearly wrote "wandering" there) I will be doing film reviews on this blog again, I've just been busy lately so haven't had a chance to put any up. Keep an eye out, one may arrive tomorrow...

Other things that have taken my interest this week; getting the real story from people in Japan via Twitter. Found a site where a guy (I assume he's a guy) has been taking pictures when he's out and about. Really interesting and excellent photography. Go to "Shoot Tokyo" to find out more. With the total sensationalism of British and American journalism I can't thank Twitter enough to make it possible to find out directly what's going on over there and how people are coping. The internet may be full of porn and lol-cats but it is good for some things.

The other thing I've been reading about is self-publishing, particularly through ebooks. Some really interesting articles in various blogs, including whether 99 cent pricing attracts the wrong kind of readers, and the accounts of Amanda Hocking who, much to her evident discomfort, has become something of a darling in the indie publishing world. Her story is definitely inspirational and I love how she is at great pains to point out that just because it worked for her doesn't mean it will work for everyone. Personally I think she's an example of how hard work and applying yourself nets the best results. And I'll admit it gives me hope that I might be able to make some money from this writing lark, eventually. Speaking of...

A bit of progress has been made with the novel, just not in the word count. I've sat down and plotted out a few more things and am trying to tidy up before I carry on. Sadly I lost some of my work when my laptop decided to commit suicide but it's given me the chance to review where I am and more importantly where it's going. I'm also trying to work out a deadline for the first draft, though the prospect scares me a bit. I'm awful with deadlines. It's why I love Douglas Adams so much, who famously said "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing sound they make as they fly by." Truly a man after my own heart and much missed. But with deadlines I hope to get the draft finished this year so the major rewriting can begin and be complete, I hope, by June next year at the latest. Eeep.

In the meantime, and to keep myself motivated, I've done a few more short stories. I'm now thinking about getting a few of these done so that I can test the waters of the self-publishing world with a compilation. The idea excites me and is a little less pressurised than getting a full blown novel out there. At least that's the hope.  One thing I have worked out though is that writing is all well and good but getting someone to edit it is just as important, not to mention the cover art. So with something smaller I would like to give all that a go and make some contacts. Wow, listen to me, I sound like I'm actually taking this all seriously and stuff...

Signing off now to do some plotting... we'll see if I can squeeze any Dragon Age 2 in before going to bed.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Growing Up Is Scary

Responsibility. It's a scary word. This week I've been faced with it when I put my name down for a flat. Up to now I've been living at home with my parents, and managing to save a lot of money in the process. But now, finally, I'm going out into the world sort of on my own (boyfriend is being dragged along for the ride) as long as the reference checks come through. Better get used to not having much money every month...

News of Japan has also been another reminder of the fragility of our lives. If you'd like to help in a small way you can make a donation to the red cross here. I don't know if others feel the same but events like that make me more determined to do the things I want to do, to become who I want to be, while I still have time. Maybe that's selfish but any good that can come of something so terrible can't be all bad.

We can't control everything in our lives, in fact it's likely we hardly control anything at all, so it's all the more important we make sacrifices and effort to get the things we want. That didn't occur to me until my Uncle died two years ago from lung cancer, aged 67. That was followed by the death of my Gran last year, after a long drawn out period of illness from Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma. It made me realise we never have as long as we'd like. That thought scared me enough to start making a real effort to "be a writer", rather than saying I'd like to be a writer one day. We only have the now and I intend to make the most of it. I don't always succeed but I try my best.

In that vein I was very pleased this week when I had a review I'd written published on another website. It's always reassuring to know that others who do this stuff professionally are willing to put your work on their sites - it's certainly good for the ego at any rate.A tiny step on the path of being a professional writer has been made.

So that's my week. How was yours?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Where Have You Been?

I feel like I can breathe again. Those that follow me on twitter will have heard that my laptop died. It was nearly seven years old (which is ancient for laptops) and will be much missed. Actually that's not entirely true: the damned thing was determined to disconnect from the internet every ten to twenty minutes and it took forever to turn off. Thankfully I have mostly backed up everything so I shouldn't have lost too much work...

Now I have a brand new netbook (it's so shiny) and am in the process of getting all my settings and sites on it. And the first place I came was here to update you all on what's happened in the last week while I was offline. Suspect I also missed some things. Something about Charlie Sheen I hear?

Caught up on a number of films this week, so reviews will follow in the coming days (I have so many posts to catch up on!) and also got to obsess over the demo for Dragon Age 2. I really liked it even though a lot of other Dragon Age: Origins players don't, if the forums are anything to go by. Cannot wait for the real thing.

Also went to the launch party for a new bar/club in London on Friday. It's called the Picadilly Institute and it has loads of floors, each with their own themes and bars. Very snazzy, a tad pretentious, but then a lot of clubs in London are like that. And what is with the toilet attendents? Who really needs someone to hand them a paper towel? I don't know about anyone else but I object to having to pay to use the loo, or to get evils when I don't.

But the most exciting news - for me at least - is that I have got myself a little freelance writing work. It's totally unpaid but it's a start and means it's not just me publishing my work. The site can be found here, and it's all about films - which is good as I know a bit about them. Keep an eye on it as I will hopefully have stuff up there in the next week or two.

Must go, as my boiled egg and toast is getting cold. The rollercoaster ride never ends in the world of the wannabe writer. Peace out.